It’s a dangerous business, loving people. So my theory on that is, the more people you love and the harder you love them-the more you insulate yourself from the awfulness that is loss. This story, is the story of a magical friendship formed over the mutual adoration of giant German Shepherds, cinnamon raisin scones and pure cussedness.
The dog was in the passenger seat of a large black truck, barking as if possessed and the owner of said dog was inside the deli. I patiently waited for the owner to come outside so I could demand to meet the angry lion of an animal. “Oh no!, says the man, “he’s not great with strangers.” But I disagreed and told him THAT dog and I were supposed to be friends. The owner chuckled and said, “We’ll see about that.”
And he opened the door while the dog kept barking and this beautiful 120 lb German Shepherd stared at me. And then he sniffed me, and with a huge sigh he placed his equally huge head in my hands and that was that.
Sometimes my friend would bring his wife by the bakery after church. Sometimes his employees, always his family when they were in town, but while Jimmy the German Shepherd was still alive they came EVERY time they were on the Island. We lost Jimmy-all giant dogs leave this world too early, but we had discovered a shared love of cinnamon raisin scones, coffee, yard work and deep-seated stubbornness. Our 40 year age difference impeded this friendship not one bit.
My friend worked until he was 80! He built me raised beds in an impossibly small space, in a place where there had prior to been nothing pretty, he built beds from rebar that no hurricane shall ever tear assunder! He would bring me pots of his homemade red sauce-to make sure I was eating while I was at work and because he knew I loved eating that perfect sauce.
Mark Twain said, “To get the full value of joy you must have somebody to divide it with.”
So thank you Tom, for dividing your time to be my friend, for dividing the joy of German Shepherds, gardening, parenting, and the language of food and friendship. You know you were loved but you are going to be sorely missed.
Oh 2020. Somehow in a haze of masks, bad behavior and a weird casserole of neverending days and days like shooting stars, we have landed at the countdown to Thanksgiving. This is my 20th year baking professionally for Thanksgiving. Were I anyone but me, I could present you with a graph of the increase in orders every year. But I am deathly allergic to graphs, spreadsheets and all other forms of data that don’t use a notebook and perfect pen. (There was an ad on NPR the other day for a new company where you can upload data WITHOUT spreadsheets, and I instantly wanted to send the company flowers and a giant chocolate cake!)
For my number nerds out there, I do promise to give the actual numeric quantities of dispatched pies and cakes this Thanksgiving. I didn’t last year and some people were ANNOYED.
I want everyone to order a copy of 100 Dresses. Yes, it was written in 1944 but it is a little book that I think EVERY child and adult needs to read. (If you click on 100 Dresses it will take you to purchase link. I never tell you guys to buy anything here but this one is important!) This book drives home how important art, patience, the art of shut-uppery and imagination are to basic happiness.
Wayne Thiebaud is an American painter best known for his still lifes of edible treats and everyday objects in his singular illustrative style. His most popular subject matter includes colorful cakes, slices of pie, candy pieces, such as lollipops, and the winding streets of San Francisco. This genius of a man turned 100 this week and HE STILL PAINTS. He created many of his masterpieces using the same technique bakers do while frosting cake. I, of course, love that. But his paintings are such a range of vivid or stark, whimsical or graphic, do yourself a favor and go down the rabbit hole of internet searching his work and THEN drive yourself to the Cameron Art Museum and see some of his works IN PERSON. It is enchanting. Go go go!!!!
Today is the day I spoon up 400 pounds of fruitcake batter. It is always, as they say, a red-letter day. It’s like a bowl of jewels, granted an 80 quart bowl, but sparkling nonetheless. One day, I am going to make a massive fruitcake sculpture, just because I can.
If Patience is a virtue than Persimmons are the perfect plant to push your pertinacious personality. Oriental persimmons take seven years to fruit. 7. I get antsy waiting for my toast to toast. BUT, some lovely garden fairy planted persimmons in the pasture of the house we rent and apparently it is this tree’s 7th birthday!!
It is loaded with fruit and because we have very diligent cats and terrifying geese, our squirrel population is non-existent! So I have high hopes that it will be glowing with fruit here shortly. I have a friend who is madly envious of this tree and also told me that apparently these trees are much coveted for golf clubs? Ick.
Whilst many trees make you think of paper, how often do you look at a tree and think, “Paper Canoe!” I am going with never on that. I do, however, love to read old, old books and see paragraphs that are so pertinent to your current setting that is makes you freeze and re-read it and then chuckle-sigh to understand that there really is NEVER anything new under the sun as far as people are concerned, the newness simply being that is it NEW to US as we experience it. There is a book called “The Voyage of the Paper Canoe” that is about a man travelling the country in 1875. By Canoe. Below is an excerpt from his journal while he was visiting HERE in Sloop Point!
“Wednesday opened with partially clearing weather, and the icy covering of the trees yielded to the softening influences of a southern wind. The family went to the landing to see me off, and the kind ladies stowed many delicacies, made with their own hands, in the bow of the boat. After rowing a half-mile, I took a lingering look at the shore, where those who four days ago were strangers, now waved an adieu as friends. They had been stript of their wealth, though the kind old planter had never raised his hand against the government of his fathers. This family, like thousands of people in the south, had suffered for the rash deeds of others. While the political views of this gentleman differed from those of the stranger from elsewhere, it formed no barrier to their social intercourse, and did not make him forget to exhibit the warm feelings of hospitality which so largely influence the Southerner. I went to him, as a traveller in search of truth, upon an honest errand…and where fourteen millions of people desire to be permitted to enjoy the same privileges as the Constitution of the United States guarantees to all…”
YOU SEE. It is possible to not be a savage regardless of your political views or persuasions. You needn’t be a jerk and everyone is entitled to an opinion and it DOESN’T HAVE TO MATCH YOURS. Freedom isn’t being free, it’s being free to CHOOSE without being persecuted for your choice. That’s the beauty of freedom. And everyone should get to choose. I had someone who I know thinks they love me, as a friend, tell me in all seriousness that women voting was a problem. I did not destroy this person, though I admit, it hurt to hear that, nor did I try to dissuade him from his opinion, but it strengthened my resolve to do more on the ground around me to ensure that I hold onto all the choices available to me and use them in the best way possible. It’s a matter of education, you see.
So I hold, that the problem is not necessarily the “haves” vs. the “have-nots” but more a “Choice” vs “no choice.” You can’t miss something you never had. Truly hungry people can’t demand ultra-specific foods. You have no choice. And in America, there-in lies the rub. If you can’t choose the things other people have the luxury of choosing, it makes you mad. You feel, if you are here, you should get to choose. And the people preventing you from making that choice are the bad ones. I never get political on here and I am not about to now, BUT, since the advent of all the Covid debacle, I have been disappointed in the general reaction of people. I don’t know why I was hoping so hard for a scene change, but I was! I truly hoped that during the quarantine, people would use their imaginations and spare time to walk in somebody else’s shoes. Let the restrictions open your eyes to people who can’t travel, are confined to a nursing home, locked up in prison, are teachers, work in daycares, can’t afford to eat out, can’t afford cars, have mental illnesses that make them afraid to leave their home, are caring for spouses that are incapacitated, so very many correlations were to be drawn from the restrictions, and yet, none of that seems to have happened on the majority of people. I can say, first-hand, from the reactions of visiting tourists, week after week who are baffled that there are Covid Restrictions down HERE followed by equally instant irritation that we did not fling the doors back open the minute the “government” said we could. This is where the lack of imagination cracks me up. Do you know what kind of change it took to switch to the new system? Do you know that our JOB has never been to cater to your whim? There was a book coming out that I had been so anxious to read and then I heard her interview on a podcast and I decided I was in fact NOT going to read the book. In this interview they are discussing all the sweeping changes needed in the restaurant industry. And her tone, so superior, so self-involved, I cringe even thinking about it. I was a girl growing up in the restaurant industry and yes, the gross stuff is totally true. BUT, few normal people can sustain the amount of crap people will dish out over food!!! We have had grown women have hissy fits in this bakery because we didn’t have what they wanted. Obviously, the restaurant industry has been widely discussed and written about from Anthony Bourdain, Bill Buford, Gabrielle Hamilton, Scott Hass, the list is huge but what I think is SO funny is that NEVER is it the fault of the consumer/customer. HOW CAN THAT BE? Who created the world that unrealistic customer demands were the way the world had to function to be sustainable and healthy and responsible??? (Here’s looking at you Amazon, McDonald’s and Disney!!!!) Yes, the restaurant industry needs an overhaul but so do ALL THE INDUSTRIES. The answer is in the middle. Consumerism has translated to politics and EVERYTHING is about MONEY and that is just not going to work anymore. There are way, way, way too many people on the planet now for this wildness to continue. You, madame, demanding your one cinnamon roll at 7 a.m. simply because you want it that way does NOT mean that my entire family has to change their life to accommodate you. Restaurants DON’T have to offer strawberries year round. Nobody finds the idea of a complete meal ready for your in sixty seconds in a drive thru unsettling? Have you ever made yourself food that fast at home? Shouldn’t that worry you? Do you EVER get the same kind of service from your doctor or insurance agent that you demand from a minimum wage kitchen person? WOULD you put the same demands on yourself you are putting on the people making your soy latte? And when I find myself in the middle of this debate in my head, I simply retreat to the land of quilts. It is safe there, soft and quiet, and full of nothing but comfort.
I can’t quilt. In fact, I can’t even sew a button. It’s true. LUCKILY, I have been surrounded by Quilting Queens my whole life, in one form or another and they have kept me snug! One of my quilts even predicted the future and I never saw it coming!
Mom made me the Fox and the Hound quilt for naptime in pre-school. It had pink pigs on the back and my name on front in rainbow letters. My name now is simply, “M”. ( I am a HUGE believer in signs though, so when the “M” disappears will I have evaporated? We shall see.) And so it followed that I rolled through life and into adulthood as a massive fan of pigs, rainbows and blankets. Fox and the Hound was too sad, though and that bear was TERRIFYING so it was never a favorite of mine. But not too far away, it was Mr. Smith’s favorite book and the first movie he ever went to see in a theatre!
I have beautiful quilts my friend Kathleen made for Connor and one for me, perfect lap quilts, and absolute works of art and love. Logan has a quilt from his childhood, I have my brother’s old baby quilt. I have art that looks like a quilt. And I have one one of my all-time favorite books, that my aunt gave me 100 years ago about the Patchwork Cat, and we do indeed now have that very cat in our home 🙂 Quilts make excellent couch covers when you have dogs that shed like mad and boys that eat on the go. Even Phineas T Piglet has a quilt that I scavenged from the side of the road. He loves a good blanket! The thing about quilts is all quilts tell a story. Old quilts made from flour sacks have stories to tell and new quilts made from quilting circles have heard so many stories when the quilters gather round to speak their minds.
But since I can’t quilt, this fall, I am making a Patchwork Garden! I have the most ALLURING LETTUCES coming from Green Drop Farms this week and I am going to transform my garden into a quilt! I am quite excited about the possibilities because we have MADE IT THROUGH SEPTEMBER without a hurricane and I am beside myself with joy!
Send me pictures of your fall gardens or your pumpkin-y porches! I love getting everybody’s pictures. So much inspiration! (Also fun story, when I was doing the pumpkin display late one night this drunk gal rolled up and demanded her husband buy her a cinderella punkin’-they were both stinking drunk and I told them if they took it and ran they could just have it-which they did-let me tell you 2 drunk adults running down a Surf City sidewalk at 10 at night with a massive pumpkin is worth it weight in gourds. It was their anniversary and she wanted that pumpkin and as they were careening down the sidewalks she shrieked, “Best anniversary everrrr,” and it was THE BEST.)
Don’t forget this Sunday is Patrick Shawn’s birthday, and as he is older than me I rub it in with MUCH glee and there will be oodles of cake slices! And I will leave you with a picture for your week that will inspire you to plunk on a hat, pull out your typewriter and WRITE!
The Biltmore Estate and I go wayyyyy back. I am a house fiend, castle fiend, garden fiend and a history dork. So when we moved to NC back in the early 90’s, I was instantly smitten with the concept of the Biltmore. Mom took me there as a high school graduation trip from which I still have my demitasse from the gift store. And then a few years later, I won a two night stay at an Asheville B&B and 2 free tickets to the Biltmore at a Sea Turtle benefit at the Assembly Building and I took my sister as a birthday present. We were deep in our Frida Kahlo phase (the movie had just come out) and we managed to combine both with a lot of hilarity! Then I got a chance to go back to Biltmore in 2018 and after the most incredible horse back riding adventure, (when you ride a horse around Biltmore you can’t help but feel giddy. It was amazing.) we got the call the my most adorable niece was getting ready to make her entrance to the world and so we sped back across the state and made it in time for that momentous occasion!
You would think, with my love of England, jewels and castles then, that I would have been on the Downton Abbey bus the minute the show came out. Nope. (Claudia got me a “NOPE” t-shirt and it is my favorite mantra.) I JUST watched the first 3 episodes last month. I even had the complete DVD set from my brother as naturally, I should love it as it is all the things I love! But I am one of those stubborn weirdos that is always suspicious when the whole world loves something-same with books-and I will wait till the furor passes. Instead, I read so very many books about Downton and already knew some because when I was young, I thought the King Tut information the most intriguing bit of knowledge and so the name and family were familiar because of the discovery and THE CURSE.
But what I want to introduce (or re-introduce, perhaps) in this conversation are some true Southern Countesses of food and an English author who knows her way around a castle.
Karen Barker. You know this name, yes? She of Magnolia Grill, Durham, NC? I admit with deep regret, that I never got to go while the restaurant was open but I do have her 2 cookbooks which are some of my absolute favorites. This particular husband and wife team spawned many of today’s trendy people in the Triangle food scene and were champions of farm-to-table before it was “a thing”, really even, before Southern food took over the food scene the way it now has. All bow, as this lady could manipulate butter magestically. (I am editing this post as one of my readers kindly let me know Chef Barker died last year from cancer. What a terrible loss for her family and the world. )
And then we have Andrea Reusing, from Lantern in Chapel Hill. (Please click the link that is Lantern it is wonderfully fascinating, inspiring and they could use your help). I LOVE this restaurant and I ADORE her cookbook. Lantern was our go-to when we got to sneak out of town child-free and have a true adult dinner with impeccable table service and feel like grown-ups with some style for 5 minutes. Click this link to buy her book . (You are purchasing the book DIRECTLY from Lantern and giving them a little boost:)) It is a great read about all the delicious things grown in NC and how to put it into splendiferous meals. She is more the Dowager of All Things Delicious. And especially given that Downton was so self-sustaining and took immense pride in their fruits and vegetables, I think Chef Reusing would have enormously enjoyed access to those kitchens and ingredients, long ago.
And NOW to the goddess of children’s writing, DIANA WYNNE JONES. In your mind, hear peals of thunder and a thousand trumpets as you say this woman’s name. I shall send you to Wikipedia to read a short bio on this amazing woman if you know not of her. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_Wynne_Jones Have you heard of “Howl’s Moving Castle?” I freely admit I loathe both cartoons and manga (any minute one of my kids will come wheeling around the corner, incensed I am insulting these art forms) and graphic novels make me ill, I get that it’s a necessary evil to get kids who don’t like to read to read but still… ANYWAY, Howl’s Castle MOVES. And they made a movie out of it that was very well received but the BOOK!!! What a concept! To imagine a massive stone building twirling through the air and repositioning itself! Diana has written over 40 books and they are all mind-bending with the sheer imagination of them. While I am a huge Harry Potter fan, it doesn’t hold a PATCH on Diana Wynne Jones works. There a lot of other bloggers and fiction fanatics out there who are just as smitten as I am. When you read her books, when you finish, you are usually quite distressed to find yourself in your own chair in your current world and not, a witch. https://ghostgrrrl.wordpress.com/65-2/https://www.npr.org/books/authors/138405268/diana-wynne-jones
It must have an impact on you, living amongst castles and ruins that are hundreds and hundreds of years old. Is that what inspired JK Rowling, Dahl, Jones, etc? Are you really imagining new things to write or are you simply able to re-imagine things that really happened? When you see these enormous structures and you see people around you struggling to simply, I dunno, NOT throw trash on the beach, orrrr NOT burn down a forest revealing the gender of their KID, you wonder how these buildings were built by sheer manpower all those many years ago.
Take the Triangle Of Magic, as I like to call it. What’s it from? What beautiful building would have had such an enormous iron and glass pyramid on top of it in Sneads Ferry?? Did it in fact used to be part of Howl’s Castle? I want to know. I also want to own it. The scale of this beauty is enormous and I pass it every day on my way to work and I have invented a different story for it every time I have driven by it! I have placed it next to Downton Abbey in order to inspire myself to magic up a castle to plunk this puppy on top of. So far, it’s not going well. Must magic harder.
You know what’s not a magical task? Trimming goat hooves. However, as a result of this chore, I did finally get my goat milking stanchion built, so that was exciting.
I have been trying to make the most of the available architecture in this neck of the woods, and though it’s not the same as tearing through the UK there is some undeniable charm and a lot of history around here. Have you driven through Camp Davis?
It will take you about 8 minutes to get there from the Island. There’s not a lot to see, but a lot of the old bungalows on the Island happen to be houses from this Camp. It’s a quick drive but it’s so interesting if you have read up on the history and can re-imagine it based on the roads and outlines still in it’s place.
Snead Ferry is very Biltmore Shabby, in the best way. Lots of Southern buildings, quietly crumbling to the ground, from industries long gone or crippled by technology and lack of interest. Take Yopp’s Meeting House, beautiful proportions, walls full of stories to tell and you can see weeds growing up through the floor and the back window has been shattered by vandals. The graveyard surrounding Yopp’s has graves dating back to 1735. And it is just there, so you can stop by and imagine a time when the Island and Sneads Ferry were not dominated by hideous Wings and Shark Attack and other shrines to disposable crap.
Ride around. Look beyond the constant new constructions (how many mini storages do we need people? I ask you.) to see the layers of history, the old barns, did you know there is a mill in Sneads Ferry that makes beautiful wooden furniture in the old style? That they save wood-drive to places to save beautiful singular trees that otherwise would be scrapped? There’s an old roller skating rink and theatre and down by the shrimp docks or out by Davis Seafood it is especially beautiful. (Davis Seafood has been there since 1949!!) AND DINOSAURS, I won’t tell you where, but there are 2, to scale dinosaur statues that are awfully fun to stumble across. (And if you happen to know who owns them, Logan is desperate to purchase one!)
Do take the time to read the books of these remarkable women. It will inspire you to throw on your tiara and magic up some delicious food with the lovely fall produce that is coming available!
In the meantime I will leave you with my Beef recipe that I like to throw in the crockpot so dinner is ready after my riding around. 1 3-4 pound sirloin roast, 1/2 cup balsamic reduction, 4 japanese eggplants sliced into 2″ chunks, 1 onion cut in half, 2 wands of celery, chopped, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Dump all in crockpot. Leave on low 6 hours. Let rest 20 minutes. Serve over mashed potatoes, rice or shred and use in beef sandwiches or on an Italian flat bread with mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes OR doctor up with Tajiin and use for tacos!
I have never met a table I didn’t like or didn’t think had potential. I have had professional relationships with tables for decades now. Setting up and breaking down folding tables at farmer’s markets, setting tables as a waitress, setting up tables as a caterer, making table displays in retail stores-I love tables. I have, currently, in my home, 6 full size tables-no joke! One is from Monica, one is from Dotty (who makes the amazing cards), one I scavenged from Craigslist way before farmhouse tables were chic-so who’s laughing now? One I got from Steve and Jessie’s old store in the mountains and one was a $10 Habitat restore table top and Shawn put an old base from a Mainsail table on it and voila! table and the last one I got from an old thrift store in Burgaw that used to be where Brown Dog is now. In my house they perform as desks, eating stations, art tables and Lego building platforms, cat walkways and dog hiding places! OUTSIDE I have 6 tables as well. ALL scavenged from the side of the road on the island except one set that I got at an estate sale. AND at the shop we have 22 tables inside and 2 outside. And ALL those tables have stories too! Some of those tables are from a movie set, some are from friends who moved away and didn’t want to get rid of tables but couldn’t take them, some are from yard sales, some scavenged (of course) but I could tell you the provenance of EVERY SINGLE ONE. And, I love them all.
Yes, that is a pie on fire, on one of my favorite tables. It is a marble topped table that cost me a whopping $25 off of Craigslist from Topsail Beach because who wants an antique table at the the beach? Uhhh, me. All day, every day. Anyway, PRO TIP do not use the magic relighting candles next to a highly flammable plastic toy. FLAMES.
When I waited tables eons ago at Soundside Restauarant, every table had fresh linens, cloth napkins and the dreaded OIL LAMPS. Oh, they were beautiful, but at the end of a long night of fielding moronic, repetitive questions from inebriated vacationers the last thing one wanted to do was de-smudge those bad boys and refill them with oil, all of them, in your section. I had not thought about that in years until recently Joanie gave me a box full of them and I cranked them up to show the boys (while promptly splashing myself with oil) and they are still charming and beautiful.
You can travel so much with a table! A different table covering, even a scarf, makes the most pedestrian tv tray magic. Do you remember in “A Little Princess” when they use Ermengarde’s scarf to cover Sara’s shabby table in order to feast on the contents of her Christmas hamper? When Sara was faint with hunger and that red scarf made the dingy room glow with promise? Or the changes wrought in the room when the lascar had scaled the roof and filled her small table with warm foods and lit the fire? That book made me deeply love setting a scene and a mood with fresh food and candles. Which is why I am dragging my family and all the bakery customers to India this week and the mystery of the raspberries shall be uncovered!
In India, Cape Gooseberries are a SUPER FRUIT and they are also known as “Rashbaris” pronounced “raspberries” which is why a recipe like this one Raspberry Matar could potentially be WILDLY confusing! (If you click Raspberry Matar above it will take you to the recipe!) IF I had been able to choose where I was born and my cultural heritage, I must confess that India has always held me in it’s thrall. It’s the food I crave at all times, the colors I love, THE JEWELS and I do absolutely worship cows. When I was little, I appropriated our neighbors calves and named them Candy and Bambi (I was 4, give me a break). I loved everything about those gorgeous creatures and their warm smell and gentle natures. ONE DAY, I shall own a forever cow. In the meantime, Connor paints me cows and I occasionally find massive cow art. As to jewels, there are simply not enough of them. The irony being you can wear no jewelry while baking because of the butter, the oils, the heat and all the equipment- you can lose appendages that way or even, worse ruin your gems! I love real gems, old world gems, and vintage Swarovski but cubic zirconia doth not dazzle me. In one of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, she discusses gems in mouth-watering detail and as a child the Hope Diamond and the gems of Egypt kept me poring over library books of gems. I have a dear friend who trucks in fine jewelry and has let me hold some AMAZING pieces, so if you have not been to Tavernay’s in Wilmington, you should go. They have new items, vintage items, original items and will repair and redesign things. They also have crazy sales on their Facebook page, so, if you believe in jewelry therapy as I do, it is just the ticket! That’s where my wedding ring came from, my baby shower present from Mom (it’s a shower of stars necklace-I am obsessed with stars), my wedding earrings, my 40th birthday earrings-all from Tavernay’s! In Ayurvedic science, diamonds guarantee long life endurance and beauty. Some people do gluten-free, I do diamonds plus. The tales of riches to be made in the spice trade lured Europeans to risk demons, dragons and falling off the edge of the world to seek new routes to India’s golden shores! Me too! What was more alluring as a child than to dream of being and 11 year old who inherited diamond mines? The sparkling necklace and skull ring below are lovely baubles made by our friend Charles Butler, who also makes beautiful things (these are NOT from my private collection) but only does custom work rather than have a store front. (ALSO, if you missed the Dior Skull ring collection and are still smarting from that style defeat, Mr. Butler’s skull ring below, retails for a cool $1200.00 versus $11,500.00 WITH the added bonus of not worrying about anybody ELSE shopping in Harris Teeter sporting the same ring because YOURS is custom.)
While working on this week’s Indian menu, I pulled out my copies of “Sara Crewe” and “A Little Princess” including one volume that had belonged to my grandfather, though the writing in the front is a mystery and I have no idea how this book came into his possession. And as I flipped through it, I found the most astonishing passage! It was the explanatory letter Frances wrote, telling why “A Little Princess” ended up being an ever changing story. And while I had read, all the versions, somehow, the explanation by the author herself had escaped me, and it is so endearing I read it twice. I will include it at the bottom, as it is a little long, but it will make you wish you could have sat down with her over a cup of tea and a plate of cookies! And this little story is so FULL of pandemic applicable lines of goodness!
“Just look and see! How do you know mine are fairy stories? But I can tell you’-with a fine bit of unheavenly temper-‘you will never find out whether they are or not if you’re not kinder to people then you are now!” Sara Crewe as snarled to the despicable Lavinia
“Miss Minchin’s tables and chairs are just like her.”
“To be invited into a warm place full of bread seemed an incredible thing. She did not know what was going to happen. She did not care, even.”
Passage regarding starving street urchin Sara gave hot buns to.
“I don’t want you to give me anything,’ said Sara. “I want your books-I want them!” And her eyes grew big, and her chest heaved.”
Sara convincing Ermengarde to give her the fine books her Papa sent her.
(Papa with a British accent sounds so much better to me then, “PAW-PAW” but when you live in Sneads Ferry…)
If you want to give yourself a treatment in Indian glamour, spend some time researching the sparkly diamond that is Madhur Jaffrey.
She has written an incredible amount of cookbooks, she is hilarious when she guest stars on podcasts and her biography is splendid. Look at all these jewels! I also happen to enjoy this mother-daughter team that was recently on Splendid Table (another wonderful TABLE!) Click the link to listen to a delicious podcast on GRILLED YOGURT SANDWICHES. That’s right. Sounds nuts. So yummy. https://www.splendidtable.org/episode/2019/05/03/mothers-amp-daughters I was working on my menu this Saturday and when Logan brought the mail in there was a Claudia card with her original art with a very Indian feeling sketch on the card AND her last name is Burnett so how is that for a fun twist of magic????
We are going to spend this week celebrating the fact that WE SURVIVED ANOTHER SUMMER and inhaling copious amounts of naan and raita, rice and chutney. One of my favorite fluff books to read “Goodye Jimmy Choo” has a delicious passage about “The Indian takeaway” which sounds SO much better than “take out” and reminds of getting to eat food in an Indian restaurant in London and have my mind erased by the deliciousness of it all! And the chai!! OOF. I do wish I could eat honey, because it truly looks like liquid gold and it’s so FUN to say “milk and honey” and honey is lovely in real chai but honey and I must retain a respectful distance. Read your old books, research some new books, clean your jewelry and get your plant beds ready because fall gardening is just around the corner and THAT means that we will have completed 75% of the year 2020 and THAT is a very, very good thing.
Try to find a quote about September that seems applicable to the South. I found some beautiful quotes, “The light shed over the small breakfast table illuminates the day, many days.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Or. “Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp as an apple…” J.K. Rowling. But, as I said, none of these work here in the South. And so, I shall fill the gap.
“September arrived, and with it a suspicious eye raised towards the sky and an inner prayer that the hurricanes be mild or non-existent.”
“The first day of September dawned, bright blue skies, fat blankets of humidity and unrelenting swarms of no-seeums and mosquitoes.”
“Happy September! It’s still 93 degrees, no breezes and a complete lack of things you can currently keep alive in your garden!”
I am always happy for September to roll around though, because by this time of the year I absolutely NEVER want to see or make another Key Lime Pie again. Spoiler alert, most bakeries buy straight egg yolks in a 5 gallon bucket (known in kitchen speak as ‘”egg death”) and so key lime pies are not quite so labor intensive. But, here, on the Island of misfit bakers, we of course use real, fresh egg yolks and every pie gets 4 and every week we go through at least 20 pies. No, I know that’s not a lot, but when you multiply 16 (weeks) times 80 yolks, that’s a lot of egg separating and IT IS A SLOPPY, SLIMY MESS. So, I come to dislike the task immensely. But by mid-September the number decreases slightly, I get over it, and truly, it is an embarrassing whine, but there it is.
And as the happiness continues I am DELIGHTED to announce I have conquered a life goal!!!! I have wanted to be able to do a proper cartwheel my entire life. I can lift heavy things, move heavy things whatever, you have to have upper body strength to bake bread and lift 50 lbs bags all the time, but somehow I could never master a cartwheel. I don’t know why. I suppose it’s what kept me from being an Olympic figure skater. BUT FINALLY, after doing what everyone else in the world is doing and applying logic poorly to seemingly random situations, I came to understand that what I have been doing ALL ALONG is a DONKEY CARTWHEEL.
And once I understood how GOOD I was at said donkey cartwheel, it was as if an immense weight was lifted from my shoulders and I could cross something off my list that has been festering for DECADES.
In a full confession of whining, this August has been rougher than usual, for all of us, the pandemic of doom, the heat and the sense of unease and it has caused me to keep ferreting around for happy, and in pursuit of happy I made the most magical connection with some of my FAVORITE, FAVORITE things and I will share them here so you too can lose yourself down a magical wormhole, if only for a moment. You know I adore “The Little House” by Virginia Lee Burton
And there was a cartoon made of the book back in 1952. I am not a huge fan of cartoons, but I am smitten with Mary Blair and somehow it had escaped me that MARY BLAIR and BILL PEET brought Ms. Burton’s darling book to life in this little cartoon. Do watch! CLICK HERE TO WATCH Give yourself a minute and watch the cartoon and then click on the Mary Blair link and lose yourself for a while in all her beautiful illustrations. It will make you happy! Why, she even manages to make chicken coops magical!
But cooler temps will come, THEY WILL. And when they do, we have been making plans like mad! Our newest obsession is flower fortune telling and making crazy things happen in our backyard. It’s tricky in high summer because the biting flies here are truly menacing and unless you are decked out like a beekeeper you tend to end up quite welt-y and not in a Eudora type way. This tiny book by my babushka is from 1846 and is absolutely fascinating. I have no idea it’s worth, try to find a first edition online. But it is PURE T. MAGIC and I love it! As is the “Backyard Adventure” book! Heads up, if you are a family member, this is going to be under the tree at Christmas. This gal is a creative genius and this stuff is FUN! Here’s her website https://www.kissmyaster.com/ go! I also received a SPECTACULAR camera from a wonderful friend that Mom tucked into one our old camera bags so I no longer have to share a camera with the-man-who-is-convinced-i-destroy-all-technology. Maybe I do shut down computers and registers wherever I go, and maybe I have stopped several eco-drive watches and yes, I have drowned phones in boiling butter, pureed bananas and cold brew coffee but I have NEVER injured a camera, so there.
I had a wonderful time watching the phases of my ranunculus this week, such a lovely flower, even as it’s petals drop. And all my animals seemed to do nothing but whuffle about for snacks, none of them ever stopped eating-ever! Perhaps they are mentally getting ready for winter fur growth? Not sure. But have been getting beds and pots ready for fall planting and immensely enjoying planning different menus around different countries I shan’t be visiting this year and so I leave you with this mysterious haiku as a hint to next week’s menus.
the last batch of mother’s berry jam – chimney soot
What does Osiyo actually mean? Simple answer, the root means “good”. As part of my children’s never ending homeschool adventures, we have recently been exploring their Cherokee heritage and there is much to learn in the state of NC. We are still avoiding groups of people mightily and are uncomfortable with traveling out of the state and so have challenged ourselves to still come up with adventures while not rumbling with the numbers. One of the cool things we have done is the John White Driving Trail . This trail took us through many small NC towns we had never gotten to see and much of the scenery was absolutely gorgeous.
There is an old boarding house in Bayboro that I desperately want to see the inside of and then write a book about! Long ago when I was in high school we stayed in a boarding house in Burgaw while we were waiting for our house to be ready. It was the COOLEST house and I missed the chance to buy it a few years ago (I didn’t have several hundred thousand dollars in my change cup so I had to pass). What if you restored an old boarding house and every room was sorted according to a book type and time period? That would be so fun to decorate. We saw a cotton press in Tarboro, the cotton press made way for so many modern inventions it’s kind of staggering, and Tarboro has a beautiful fountain. We drove through Vandermere. We saw acres of fields and tiny charming fishing villages. We saw devastation still, from Florence. We saw 2 eagles walking around by a pond bank fishing!!! We saw a yucky motorcycle wreck-nobody hurt but the bike, thank goodness! Rode a ferry, a short one, purchased honor system watermelons, explored all the dragons in Oriental, saw Arapahoe and Princeville , saw loads of deer and MEGA DONKEYS. Have you seen a mega donkey?? They are MASSIVE. Saw a roaring house fire-it was terrifying. We saw a gigantic giraffe statue in an otherwise immaculate yard, we were swarmed by Hummingbirds in Oriental, saw chubby baby cows (speaking of CHARMING did you know about the Charmin App? Click here made me laugh so hard.)
We saw an artesian well and then sat in a parking lot and bathed in the smell of woodsmoke and slowly melting pork. It was wonderful. And after all these sights and sounds, when we got back to the shop and continued working I came across the book “Blue Highways” which Shawn has been wanting to read forever but had no idea we even possessed it! It was odd going through towns where there was nobody about, but it was a Monday and it was 94 degrees-literally-so a great day for shuttling around in an air-conditioned bubble. Except for the Labyrinth, that was worth the sweat bath.
Did you know though, that I am an idiot? watch this Yes, indeed! Wednesday NIGHT these two charming women, came to my door. It was after 6 and I could feel someone staring at the back of my head and sure enough, voila, people. I ignored them as A. I do, B. We were closed, C. Stranger Danger. They stayed and the next time I pivoted one of them was gesturing angrily. Suddenly I felt silly, sure it was a friend who I didn’t recognize due to masks. So, I opened the door. Complete strangers. One of whom was livid I could not produce a cake on the spot and proceeded to tell me I was an idiot. Truly! No, I did not punch her (frankly I regret that.) and responded, “Really? Well YOU are not getting a cake!” and then slammed and locked the door. Her friend was mortified as she had attempted to be pleasant and NORMAL the whole time. So, write it down, I AM AN IDIOT.
And since I am an idiot AND had kids, it reminds of how much I dislike kids in literature. Isn’t that terrible? I emphatically did NOT want to read about Anne of Green Gables children in “Rilla of Ingleside” and look how Laura Ingalls daughter turned out in real life-eeeew. Talk about a Rose by any other name, I have a name for her, BRAT. Which is unfortunate because so many of my favorite things are Rose inspired. Rosie’s Bakery, one of my first and favorite cookbooks and a place my siblings took me to on a birthday trip to Boston. Rose Levy Bernbaum who writes cookbooks that make the most ethereal cakes of all time. And Rose Bakery in Paris, specifically, from which sprang one of my favorite cookbooks that keeps me endlessly inspired. And of course, my vice, HEIRLOOM ROSES . Heirloom roses are the one thing that Ms. Apricot the Donkey and I got into a fight about. Roses are friends NOT FOOD.
OR, if you would like to call someone an IDIOT in Cherokee, “Golagi nigesvna.” But you never would.
I do hope you are gearing up for fall planting! I have been clearing madly, merrily anticipating gardening in temperatures less than 1 million with a slightly lower bug and mugginess atmosphere around me.
“My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.” H. Fred Ale
I recently discovered that time travel is possible thru 3 simple ingredients. White bread, cheddar and Gulden’s mustard. It’s true. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about spicy mustard in years. This seems ludicrous, I know, but sometimes, when you are the preparer of comfort foods for lots and lots of people outside of your own family, you don’t get the luxury of thinking about what food you find comforting. Sometimes comfort isn’t necessarily eating something physically comforting or nourishing, but the place that food and the scent takes you. Now, I will take you with me on the whirlwind of travel that one singular bite took me on!
That one bite, thin slices of white bread, one slice cheddar and thick smears of Gulden’s mustard, sent me back to the land of Spanish moss, magical houses and loose burgers. Mustard and I have had many adventures. Historically, my brother once coated my glorious, oh so 90’s, all white outfit with mustard before I was heading to the roller skating rink for a party. Mom knew I loved mustard and it was always on my sandwiches and one day at after school dance class, when I got my coveted one soda (Root Beer) I somehow got mustard on my leotard which made me scramble to clean it which made me knock over my soda and then I sat in a puddle of of soda, frozen with shame, unsure of what to do but CONFIDENT I was ruining the floors. (Some people have dumb thumbs. I have dumb feet. You can’t teach me to dance or turn a cartwheel, it is impossible.) One time I had to march in a Christmas parade as a JV cheerleader and you had to be there at an ungodly hour. For some reason, I had stashed mustard packets in my underwear drawer-no I don’t know WHY and when it was time to get dressed for the parade and 4 a.m. my drawer and drawers were ALL mustardy. Given that I was already annoying the world by needing a ride to town that early on a Saturday I stole some of mom’s old underwear thinking this would work and I could fix the mustard situation later. Of course it was cold, it was December, and we had pom poms and cheers to do the whole route of the parade and we hit that first block and somehow the underwear were at my ankles. I had to just step out and keep going. It was horrific. AND mustard stains. Forever. But Brooksville had the most beautiful library and behind a street of incredible old homes and for a brief time my best friend, Bianca lived in one, and that house had a true secret passageway and her dad taught me to eat fresh popped popcorn dipped in spicy mustard. Coney Island was our favorite restaurant to visit if we were going to Rainbow Roller Land or Roger’s Christmas House. No pictures could ever do Roger’s justice. Rambling old houses stuffed to the gills with themed Christmas rooms, unusual mannequins and thousand year old candy. It was true Florida. But Coney’s loose burgers still make my mouth water, though I haven’t had one in at least a decade. We lived in a neighborhood full of moss and retirees whom I befriended and one neighbor around the bend had a talking parrot and a never-ending supply of hard pretzels to be dipped in mustard AND she was missing fingers because her husband backed over them with a riding mower which somehow ended up being Sears department store’s fault and they got enough money to buy a talking parrot which I thought FASCINATING. Aunt Cec used to make the murkiest mustard pickles and I would eat them till my sinuses were clear like crystal and my mouth burnt from all the mustard. We also used to attend the Rattlesnake Festival where you could purchase skewered snake to dip in BBQ or Mustard.
All that blew through my head in one bite. It was remarkable. And then I felt like a fool for having forgotten about something so delicious for so long. It just adds the perfect pop of piquancy to most bites. And weirdly, August 5th is National Mustard day and August 6th is Aunt Cec’s birthday and so it seemed an auspicious bit of time travel. Incidentally, this happened at work early Friday and then Saturday I was bewilderingly exhausted and slept ALL DAY, which you can ask my children never happens. I am in the 4 hours of sleep is great category, so apparently time travel and tesseracting are quite hard on one.
Mustard has been one of the most widely grown and used spices in the world for many centuries. It is believed to have originated in Ancient Egypt. The Greeks used Mustard as a medicine and a spice. The Romans emulated the Greeks using it as both food and medicine as well, ascribing it as a cure for anything from hysteria to snakebite to bubonic plague. Hmmm. I don’t think mustard works on my hysteria. BUT here is a link if you want to try and make your own mustard to cure some plagues https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/best-mustard-ever-recipe-1948184 !
August is a weird month. Historically it is full of oddities and sad things, it used to also feature back to school but who knows what that looks like now. Here in NC we are getting ready to joyously welcome a tropical storm and get ready for Hurricane Season, which I am beginning to suspect is more like the Weather Channel got wise to Hallmark and all it’s made up holidays and decided to invent a “season” to sell more ads and bottled water and batteries. Just trying to keep conspiracy theories classy!
August 1, 1944 – Anne Frank penned her last entry into her diary. “[I] keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would like to be, and what I could be, if…there weren’t any other people living in the world.” What a statement. I am sure I am not the only one who thinks that thought often and sadly it seems to be very true once again.
It is definitely safest to be in the presence of the dog or a donkey. Very few troubles seem to arise, as far as a personality conflict. Apricot has taken to playing hide and seek and she was cracking me up in the flowers. The long days mean long shadows, spectacular moons, faded roses and tiny old fashioned flowers staying bright despite the heat and humidity. I spent a good deal of time taking plant pictures yesterday in case we did get wild winds that blow them all to smithereens. I suppose that is also why we try to make so many things around the house from recycled and free materials as possible too. When you know how quickly it can all get washed away you tend to not want to overinvest in materials!! See how Shawn made the walls of the goat pavilion out of the old market signs?
In August 1797, Jane Austen wrote “First Impressions” and later changed the title to “Pride and Prejudice.” Speaking of conspiracy theories, what WOULD she have said about the sheer amount of work that has spun off from her work? The countless books, films, studies, papers, conventions, board games, podcasts it is astonishing. 41 is so very young. Somehow, I hope she knows that she has kept so many people enthralled and mystified for all these years.
Growing mustard is a great fall project, whether for mustard seeds or mustard greens. This article has some neat information about mustard. I am also wanting to plant a 3 Sister’s bed next year as well. https://www.nativeseeds.org/blogs/blog-news/how-to-grow-a-three-sisters-garden There is a lot, lot, LOT to be learned about Native Americans. After all my Little House research, I keep coming across more and more information that I am humiliated to not have known before. (ESPECIALLY since it’s part of my DNA!) Maybe, we can write more books about this and get lots of interest here as well??? Now that so many people are shopping online, it’s a great time to spend your money with places where they make a difference! Just take the time to make sure that it is a legitimate site and that the money is truly going to farmers, towns, artisans, Native Americans, etc…
Tell me what foods make you time travel! Things that you eat that make you go to a time or situation that you loved or preferred, what are they? However simple or complicated or plain, it is worth discussing in minute detail! Because if being ok for 10 minutes can be that simple, we can help a lot of people be ok. And in the face of pandemics and hatefulness and stupid, stupid storms, a few laughs and a bit of ok will make all the difference.
“Have you ever tried to get to your feet with a sprained dignity?” ― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
It’s not often a song makes me shoot elderflower lemonade through my nose. When I am driving, my brain goes a million miles a minute and sometimes, quite bored by my own company I will turn on the radio, and so when I heard, “…if you don’t jump to put your jeans on, baby, you don’t feel my pain.” I literally coated my steering wheel in said beverage, and proceeded to crack up while cleaning up the mess and still maintaining safe and graceful backroads driving. It has completely changed my mind about getting dressed. Now I am in a much cooler club than I was before, so thanks for that Madame Beyonce’!
I blame the jeans struggle on pancakes, mainly. I adore pancakes and rarely get to eat them in restaurants (well, plus curbside pancakes who wants THAT?) because they are 99% of the time made from a mix heavily laced with S500, to give the batter more staying power -that chemical aftertaste is awful. So I make them at home and then eat them! One of my favorite pancake books, “Pancakes in Paris ” just came out with ANOTHER book, “Let them Eat Pancakes!” SHOP HERE And since I am not getting to Paris anytime soon, this will suffice!
I love his writing and I love that he is Polish, which makes us almost family! AND the coolest thing happened! One of my friends who had just finished Monsieur Carlson’s first book, QUIT HER JOB, on the strength of being inspired by his book and a healthy dose of pandemic fatigue and THEN SHE TOLD HIM SHE DID THAT!!! It was incredibly inspiring to see, hear and watch and she is a brave and courageous gal who will do great things! Talk about a validation for sticking your neck out and writing a book! It’s funny because the very day before, one of my favorite people told me this anecdote about a bucket of water (click the link if you want the full anecdote) and initially it annoyed me immensely, the notion that everyone was dispensable. But the more I chewed on it, I finally understood that it is the only way of thinking that would ever give anyone the freedom to move about in such a manner that makes them beholden to NOBODY, and man, isn’t THAT a breath of fresh air?
“Pancakes for Breakfast” by Tomie de Paola is another favorite. I wrote him a fan letter this year, right after Christmas and sadly he passed away this year, so I am super happy I took the time to write. (You should check out his website. He was wonderful.) More people should write legitimate fan letters. What’s better than getting a random note of praise? Twitter and IG messages don’t cut it! Did you know Roald Dahl WROTE to Claudia when she was little?? How magical is THAT?
I finished reading “Prairie Fires” last week and WHOA. It sat heavy. Fascinating, illuminating, disturbing and it sent me into 50,000 research holes, pursuing other papers and books from the time period. For instance, “On the night of October 30, 1968, she baked some bread, then went to bed. She never woke up.”
Why is that so chilling? This is referring to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter, Rose, whom after reading the book it was absolutely impossible to like. I do share a house obsession with her, but other than that she seems a maniac, despite her prolific writing and she certainly let the money and legacy behind the Little House books be destroyed by a loathsome politician of all things. I was inclined to read the book because I so enjoyed the Little House books (I mean, we had a Little House store, for pig’s sake) and one of the glowing recommendations was written by one of my favorite Beatrix Potter scholars, Linda Lear. Did you know Beatrix Potter’s birthday is Tuesday? Make sure to make yourself a proper tea on Tuesday and peruse her website and then donate to her trust. I myself am a member of the Beatrix Potter Society, ahem.
As much as I blather on about Susan Branch and her blog and her books, her book about her Hilltop visit is especially cunning and DEFINITELY worth a read. Somehow Mom just NOW read that book, though I have been beating her about the head with it for years!
I do find it odd, that Susan Branch doesn’t talk about Anne of Green Gables more but perhaps that is just not as much her thing. I reread them yearly, “Jane of Lantern Hill” being my absolute favorite and every time I read it I can be 9 again, and it’s a very pleasant exercise in escaping the world of instant information, texting, masks and being an adult in a world of jerks. Somehow, my dear friend Donna intuited I was at the end of my being-an-adult-tether and surprised me with a clutch of vintage cookbooks and the MOST DARLING TOTE that I have threatened my children’s lives over ever touching!
Recently I learned that when a kite shows up, their appearance indicates a need to develop flexibility and adaptability. Swallow-tailed kites drink in air, in a swallowing pattern. They can teach us how to develop unique breathing techniques to open our intuitive abilities to recognize and communicate with spirit. Why did I learn this? Being Cherokee, I assumed there was some reason the birds were here living in the buffalo pasture! They look like dinosaurs when they fly, it’s a little creepy. So between the white kites dropping hints and Donna’s bag, I am attempting to calm down, be more flexible, and stop throwing things at the kitchen door when people stand there and stare at me. Plus, I just finished reading Jessica Simpson’s book and it is also a great exercise in calming down, realistic denim crises and being a girl in the world. (On a hilarious note, when I met Shawn his roommates had a Jessica Simpson poster IN THE KITCHEN. Share your thoughts, PUH-LEEZ.) But truly, her book was enjoyable, I grew up in that age so it was interesting to see and hear plus you HAVE to pull for someone who is a billionaire on the strength of a GED. MY COMPLAINT THOUGH-no. pictures. What on earth? In the “Prairie Fires” book there were some incredible photos. I LOVE PHOTOS. Susan Branch lards her books gorgeously with photos. COME ON PEOPLE.
This week I made the boys attempt to write with a quill, just to give them a sense of how much more laborious writing was long before the age of, say, PENS. They were exhausted by the effort. Should you want your own goose feather sent home with your curbside pickup this week, let me know! We have gobs-turns out geese shed as bad as German Shepherds! Thank goodness they don’t live inside, too-and it is quite a trick thinking of writing long documents, much less a book in this manner. The scritching of the quill on the paper sounds a lot like Dr. Pepsi and his morning ablutions, though!
This week is also Harry Potter’s birthday, so I do hope you have some sort of homespun magical plans for Friday! I am reading a book by Dodie Smith (a J.K Rowling beloved author), “I Capture the Castle“, and keep putting it down because it is so great I don’t want to finish reading it! I was destined to love it since Dodie and I share an adoration of dogs, castles and we have the same last name but the writing! I am now setting about acquiring everything she has ever written and mourning the fact I never got to meet her!
I hope you had a Merry Christmas in July! We put up a tree, had a feast, listened to Christmas carols and exchanged tiny gifts of candy. Twinkle lights always help! Sadly, of all the Christmas goodies people ordered through the shop this month NOBODY ordered the fruitcake cookies and so I didn’t get to make them, which is probably just as well given the pancake+pants dilemma.
Oddly, the Dodie book materialized (and I mean that because it was a box of books given to me by a friend!) about the same time as I was going through a box of old photos I had bought at an estate sale last year and had not gotten to go through just yet. I love old photos. This box was packed full and most of them are dated. I had kept them tucked in my Vietri camel until I had time. Here’s the crazy thing, they are dated the same year as “I Capture the Castle” book was written. And so many of the photos are things I would have photographed NOW but these are from 1948! I have always felt like the 40’s was the era I was supposed to have been born during. Recently Granny sent me some clippings from old date books of hers where she kept notes of how wildly obnoxious I was when I was 4 going on 5. The computer comment still holds true as to the extent of my technology prowess.
Enjoy your week! August is almost here and I am hoping that Sylvia Plath is right and there will be some rain! “August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
Have you ever received the gift of a frozen whole raccoon? No? I was invited into a trailer with both live and taxidermied bears, and as a result of having behaved in a manner worthy, I was gifted a whole frozen raccoon-furry feet still attached. I have been handed a whole frozen bunny-still furry-by it’s bereft owner who wanted me to meet the beloved pet that died and he couldn’t bear to part with. I have had an Igloo cooler with 2 halves of a whole deer-and by whole I mean WHOLE, recently dispatched deer, dropped at the bakery. I had a beloved FedEx driver show me a picture of the massive hawk in his freezer that all his people claim to keep for good luck. I have found and rescued more dogs and cats than I can count. We have had baby sheep and steers visit the bakery. We have raised sick baby chickens in the bathroom. I have made friendships with dogs that would drag their owners for blocks to get to me at the farmer’s market so we could have our morning chat. And downtown, the police horses would come visit and demand oatmeal cookies as a treat. There are before sunrise walkers on the island whose dogs know to run up to the kitchen door for a hug and a whisker of cheese. There are island cats who lounge out front waiting for teacups of cream. There is a one footed grackle who returns every year for Logan to toss him crumbs. It has been quite a decade of bizarre (and magical) animal interactions and the host of people who genuinely love them.
“I needed comfort. I was going to make scones.” Goldy April 2001 Diane Mott Davidson When people ask me my favorite thing to make, the answer is always scones. I have been making scones for 20 years and I never, ever tire of making them. (Jam bars and cinnamon rolls, however, reduce me to gnashing of teeth EVERY. TIME.) I suppose it is the attention scones demand when done-insisting they be eaten piping hot-ideally lavished with clotted cream. And in those few bites, you can be still and think about nothing else other than the beauty of those simple, clean, basic ingredients and the gorgeousness they create when combined. That is a moment to be treasured and a pause in which to think thoughts to give you clarity and the courage to start anew, with maybe less, to a much better end. Small snack-big learning. I am including a recipe for one of my favorite scones below.
In the 10 years prior to launching out on my own in a retail space, there was a decade of private catering, baking for coffee shops, barista-ing, and running bakeries for others and pastry chef-ing in the wee hours. So in a way, it was it’s own culinary-hospitality grad school program. I have roasted coffee and created recipes for a massive coffee chain you would know, learned to make bagels on the scale of 1000’s in Charleston, pulled off catered affairs for 100’s of people (one of those my sister almost killed me. It involved sand dunes, summer, and a remote location) so by the time we got to a retail store I was ready to retire from the party scene! You can only do so many weddings (and sometimes with some people over the course of time, MULTIPLE WEDDINGS) so many times before the beauty starts to elude you. It’s like my birthday, after making hundreds of birthday cakes a year for people I know and WANT to have a lovely birthday, by the time mine rolls around-HARD PASS. No thanks!
But there are gifts that come all year long year after year and when I look around the bakery or my home, everything has a story to tell! Susan’s handmade Sugar Bag sign from downtown, Mom’s yellow wooden sun from a Riverfest 12 years ago, Terri’s travel trunk, Jessi’s mom’s shelves, Joseph Peter’s tables and lamps, Claudia’s signs, Janice’s mixer, a million hand written recipes mailed to me, stacks of cookbooks from Cameron’s mom, Ginny’s bear and internal organ reindeer, Shelly’s art from 100 Wisconsin fairs, Liz’s beer steins and mugs, Katie’s treasured trinkets, Tom and Desiree’s stove, Josh’s bread slicer, Uncle John’s desk, Grandpa Jack’s fishing knife, Logan and Connor’s cryptic notes taped to all fridge surfaces, Shawn’s designs, Joanie’s giant snowmen, Sara’s art, Kenny’s sewing machine, Cathy and CJ’s art, June’s table, Billy and Alex’s pool table lamp, Lenny’s garden urns, Romelle’s pie pans, Jan and Piper’s book shelves, fridges from Mainsail, I could literally tell you a story about every piece in that shop. No joke. Whether it was a gift, a donation a trade out for eternal birthday pies the stories are there, reminding me of all the good and kind people in the world.
To be honest, I didn’t know what I was doing when I embarked on this journey all these years ago. It’s like the time I was little and at my grandparents house down in the swamps of Florida and I decided to catch a fish and went right down to the lake’s edge with a net (this was strictly forbidden as the gator population here was terrible and people’s dogs disappeared regularly) and decided to fish. As beginner’s luck would have it there was an ENORMOUS spawning gar fish there for the taking and I smugly scooped it up and staggered over to the adults. To my dismay, I promptly had to return the poor fish to the water and was told AGAIN, not to go the water’s edge and that this did NOT count as mastering the art of fishing since that fish was not up to it’s usual snuff. Which is a bit how I feel about, Sugar, it seemed like such a simple thing, make birthday cake and hand out some lattes in 18 square feet, how hard can it be? Silly, silly girl. Much, much harder. And so you take it apart and put it back together, again and again and again. We moved from downtown after “a massive series of unfortunate events”. Some people ask for signs-man did we get them. Exploding toasters, theft, people removing fingertips to write poetry in blood, people who would stand outside the window before daylight staring at me-not blinking-in drug addled-states, sabotaged espresso machines, destroyed coffee grinders from some prankster dropping a dime in the hopper, run my finger thru an espresso grinder, an accident with a food processor that put slivers of almond through my contact into my eye, a bad knife cut from a pear and when I ran to my car to go buy loads of bandages I find some INSANE attorney from Raleigh brought her 15 year old daughter to downtown Wilmington at CHRISTMAS to teach her to parallel park a STATION wagon and has crushed the front part of my car so I can’t drive away and must stand there bleeding while this lovely…mother…shrieks at me repeatedly that she is an attorney! All this was truly during the last 3 months we were downtown. How my hair didn’t turn white, I don’t know, and this was when Connor was still a toddler, we had a puppy, and Logan was in middle school. So, it seemed time to move on to much quieter pastures even though we had made the MOST wonderful friends. Do you remember what the island was like in 2013? Swingbridge, the Pirate ship, way less houses and neighborhoods, much quieter EXCEPT from May to Labor Day, but outside of those times it was a sleepy little town. Since then, housing developments, condos, marinas, shopping centers, have popped up like toadstools. When I used to drive out here to work in 2000 there was no Harris Teeter on the corner but a shack with goats! So we came, started small, just one side, 900 square feet, and then we redid it and grew another 900 feet and then we redid it and added another 1000 square feet BUT then we needed a market, oh man I loved that market, but Florence and some nasty people, decided “no market” and so we added the Little House, because the Island is sorely lacking in adorable, historic houses, and I ADORED the Little House but sadly, the pandemic has claimed her too, and so you see, the cycle never really ends, scoop it up, sway smugly, put it back-wail of despair- and start over. BUT
“If you sit around and wait for inspiration, all you get is a sore a&*.” Wayne Thibeaud
I am bad at waiting and worse at patience, so we have just kept trying, Shawn, the kids, Mom and I, many combinations of many things all these years. Picking up the pieces as they fall after each incident, trying to remain focused on the things that have always mattered to me-feeding people. I can’t bear hunger, it should not exist anywhere.
There are lots of things I have yet to do, that I am hoping to drag my family through. Mercifully, they are escaping my long-cherished dream of being the first female president, but it does NOT mean that they will get out of my bed and breakfast dream. I have wanted to do that, always. 15 Years ago I made bread for lots of bed and breakfasts downtown and would often help at some of them or work there on weekends and just loved it. We shall see. If you know someone with a perfectly gorgeous house that needs keeping, you let me know.
:”I am the Lorax…” one of my favorite Suess books with a big, fat moral tucked into it. Our family is deeply enthusiastic about trees, as are all of our animals. In fact, one of our animals is part tree. Meet Lombax.
Lombax is of Topsail Island feral Cat lineage. Her crazy cat mom hid in a closet in the storage room and surprised us with kittens. Before we could even wrap our heads around this (this was a feral cat mind you-read NOT FRIENDLY) she then relocates the kittens. Where you ask? To the almost top of a pine tree. An incredibly tall pine tree, like abandon your kid in the mountains Roman times style. SO-we trapped the feral, non-maternal beast-got her a wonderful home+neuter and Shawn rescued the kittens from the tree and rehomed one and we kept Lombax. While Lombax (yes, this is a Ratchet and Clank throwback) or BaxonTraxon (like the Winnie the Pooh song “Backson”) was not to the manner born, we have managed to teach her some manners and you can pet her without being sliced to ribbons. We have not successfully convinced her that 80 foot trees are not a normal hang-out. But she LOVES to drop out of a tree, directly next to you, when you are deeply absorbed in a book thus scaring the daylights out of you and usually causing the upset of a drink, much to her delight.
The books I have read and re-read this week while parked under a tree, are all home-themed-which I guess, is fairly appropriate, though was wholly unconscious on my part!
Surely I am not alone in the naming of household furniture and appliances? People always say “if walls could talk”, but imagine if dining room tables could? Cafeteria tables, restaurant tables, antique zinc-topped bars that started in Italy and were shipped to restaurants in NYC, old farm tables that were hand-whittled-these would have some tales to tell!! I know I am not alone in this deep-seated respect for the personality of furniture because C.S. Lewis, Ruth Chew , Thomas Disch, Diana Wynne Jones, to name a few, wrote romping tales that centered around the magics these furnitures could perform. Thus making the book about home elements an incredibly fun read! Did you know lots of publishers initially rejected Anne of Green Gables? Or that L.M. Montgomery’s favorite flowers were hollyhocks and cosmos?
One of my plans this summer, long before this mess hit, was to plant different gardens that were author-themed! A Jane Austen garden, a L.M. Montgomery garden, a Beatrix Potter, Louisa May Alcott-you get the idea- garden-all of their favorite flowers were so very different and the resulting combinations are going to be quite interesting! It’s a bit like peeking into a diary-seeing what shapes and color combinations appealed to the minds that generated their brilliant books. (https://www.motherearthliving.com/gardening/beatrix-potter-flowers-and-herbs) Knowing so many female farmers, naturally made me interested in The Earth in Her Hands. Our beautiful plants from Green Drop Farms and Shelton Herb Farms are female-owned farms, our delicious lamb and pork comes from Southern Sheep Company, helmed by Melissa Gray, my cousin Linda is a farmer and our friend Nonie has Carol Sue Blueberry Farms and being around that many fabulous, hard-working women always reminds me not to be a lazy slug!!
I do a lot of combat with slugs, though, so it wears off on me. Did you know that cats think it’s fun to bring you slugs? They do. And slugs think it’s fun to eat your plants. I think neither thing is fun, hence slug-combat. Cats also like to bring rotting things in from the woods and sometimes the combination is simply too much and you must clean it with something industrial strength, like bleach. There is MUCH talk of bleach these days (have you seen this? it is SO FUNNY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCpf0LNYsYA ) BUT did you know bleach can EXPIRE? Did you know bleach came from SOUR MILK?
In a commerical kitchen we have to use some heavy-duty stuff to clean. One time, when I worked at a bakery on Market Street, a man was shot in our doorway, and you want to talk about putting some bleach in action…but BEFORE that, when I was still learning the ropes, when it was my turn to clean, I dumped a whole gallon of bleach in the mop bucket and then started to pour in ammonia! Luckily, an adult came screaming up to me telling me I was getting ready to die AND that I was an idiot. (Ok, I was 21, but still had not had any toxic chemical info ALSO, how on earth did women teach school at 16 and run farms and have huge families by the time they were 20 back in Little House on the Prairie days? What happened to us?) So, bleach and I don’t hang out too much unless it is an extreme situation. It was fascinating to learn though that the chemical bleach came about to replicate what sour milk and sunlight used to do for fabrics! -Side note, the Owlcation blog about bleach is great but there is some odd grammar in it, so all my editor friends prepare to cringe and shudder, even more so than you do on here.-
So instead of Clorox (did you know they own Burt’s Bees??? Is that weird or what?), I turn to Borax, 20 Mule Borax, specifically, as I own said mule. If you click the chart above it tells you loads of useful things that Borax does. It’s something I keep on hand in bulk!
We received so many texts and emails with pictures of everyone’s pizzas, #virsugardens, homemade cookies and dresses! It was wonderful to get a glimpse into everyone’s home life and it’s ALWAYS fascinating to see one thing interpreted so many different ways! Nobody’s pizzas were the same, cookies all different, home coffee bars unique and the same dress looks so different on every gal! Thanks for the inspiration-I love it!!
June is just around the corner. Halfway through 2020. I will say, I have put into use many old-school techniques that I haven’t gotten a chance to use in years, caught up on lots of actual phone conversations that made me feel high schoolish again, sprawled out in a bean bag on my oh-so-special black phone, racking up 40 minute phone calls! Those things have been nice. Keep the pictures coming, but DO remember to let us know it’s ok to use them 🙂 Don’t feel crushed if your picture isn’t here-we just didn’t have lots of people’s permission!
Until next time, please don’t let your cat stash her kittens in trees and remember NOT to mix ammonia and bleach.
Your Donation hellps to feed the ever-growing number of livestock and rescue animals on our crazy farm
(The title of this blog reminded me of an Irving Berlin song and Grandpa Jack (far left) always looked like he belonged in an Irving Berlin picture.)
White Tiles and I go way back. No, it’s not some super-chic band you have never heard of, it is ,simply, WHITE tiles.
Somehow, wherever we live, there are acres of massive white tiles. Our old little house in Castle Hayne thoughtfully has them in the kitchen, main room, down the halls and in the bathroom. Our current house is a literal SHRINE to white tiles. In fact, we call this decor style “early 80’s Florida druglord” so overwhelming are the white tiles. And lastly, the bakery, both the kitchen and the shop side, 1800 square feet of WHITE TILE AND WHITE GROUT. Why? Dogs and Pigs and Kids and chickens and white tile are terrible BUT hundreds of pounds of coffee and cocoa and cherries and white tile? Who would come up with such a cruel floor covering? Mercifully, I find the instant gratification mopping supplies, to be cathartic and an excellent mind-clearer/thought generator. ESPECIALLY when I have gone wildly indulgent and treated myself to…A NEW MOP!
And as I was test-driving Monsieur Mop around 16 acres of bakery floor (before you get all huffy (MOM) Shawn always asks to mop, but it is so soothing to my overwrought brain at the end of a day, it gives time for all things I need to remember to ship, order, proof, mail etc to float to my forebrain so it gets done!) it occured to me that there was cold-comfort in the upcoming Memorial Day weekend this year for many people for many reasons. (OH, OH Guess what! The traffic with the NEW 10,000 BAZILLION DOLLAR BRIDGE STILL BACKS UP. Hmmmm.)
People yearning to escape cities- pretend everything is normal, locals not thrilled about a revolving door of people for 9 weeks, other locals desperate for $ boost after a squiffy 2019 courtesy of Hurricane Florence; that much dissension among the ranks makes for a level of discomfort. They are coming though, and READ-Y I am not.
Fortunately, I was given a 30 minute cosmic dose of comfort by the surprise return of Lynn Rossetto Kasper to Splendid Table! I have missed her show tremendously. Being able to hear a NEW interview with her was such a treat! Years ago, when I was doing Farmer’s Markets downtown, after the baking+packing, her radio show was on WHQR while we would be waiting in line at Thalian Hall to queue up parade-style, before all the cars could drive down to Water Street at 7:30 a.m. to begin setup. This was BEFORE podcasts and smart phones (2002 y’all) and I would sit in my truck full of hot breads, sipping Java Estate coffee and the mellifluous sounds of Lynne telling me fascinating stories of food. It was divine. Podcasts, though I love them, are not always the same as a live radio (though I absolutely ALWAYS turned off the callers. Not a fan of questions.) And here she was talking about how, in Italy, the bits that sink to the bottom of your pasta dish in a ragu’ are actually more like a second meat course! Something rich and delectable to be scooped up with a fork or a hunk of bread and just the telling of this simple act and the logic behind it was enormously comforting and cozy and transported me back 18 years, just like that.
With Memorial Day on the 25th, I have nothing to offer in terms of true comfort, other than to embrace tastes that take you back in time, or tastes that feel like travel. Food-driven memories are so very powerful. I was thrilled to have someone call me and tell me that they too had wonderful memories of gooey grilled cheese and tv nights as a child, and then brought to tears by someone emailing me that my baking came close to their mom’s. Of course, we all know that CAN’T be duplicated, but the idea of being able to feed people simple foods that are calming and give a few minutes of happiness is the best part of my work day.
Living in a military community, almost everyone you know will have a personal connection to someone lost in combat. Isn’t that a sombering sentence to say? But it’s true. Shawn lost a dear friend in combat years ago and so we will take a moment to share him here with you, letting him know he is always remembered and that you are remembering yours as well.
We remember. Remember the good and the sad. Use it to compare and steady yourself. Take comfort in small things, simple gestures. Send letters and cards. Claudia sent postcards! Granny Shirley just sent us a note full of old Guidepost clippings!
And at the end of your remembering, remember that we, here, are under Carolina bluest of BLUE skies right now, that you can always safely travel through your imagination, a good book, an exotic recipe or via Mary Poppins Transit and pretend to pop into a chalk painting and take off on a jaunt!
Sometimes, just a spoonful of sugar…
simple payments block
Farm Animal Funding!
Your donations help to feed our ever-swelling menagerie of rescue livestock and special needs animals! Thanks so very much!
I hope you are all well and you had some type of Mother’s Day celebration if it was your day to celebrate!
We had a quiet celebration here and I made a brutal wish list of things I wanted the guys to get done AND THEY DID! The goal was to make things or reinvent things around the house. You know how many times a year I flipped the interior of the bakery or the Little House, so you should feel deeply sympathetic to this crew marooned on Quarantine Island with me!
We roasted large batches of coffee, installed rain barrels from recycled bits, upcycled broken bikes and made pavers from old bags of concrete. BUT THE big event was GUERILLA PLANTING! One time at a yard sale I bought an enormous bag of seeds. It’s been in my pantry for over a year and this spring I planted some in pots-half of them sprouted and the other half did nothing. So, I determined that rather than gamble on the remaining 60,000 packs, I would save them for a different project!
So ANYWAY, I mixed all these iffy seeds together in a bucket and planted this field adjacent to our house! It used to have buffalo in it, and we miss them immensely, and now they no longer use (or mow) the pasture and I figured, when in my lifetime will I ever again have the luxury of randomly planting an entire field that may or may not grow? I didn’t feel bad about seed waste because the seed packets were years expired and IF some of them work, well then it will be the most outrageously gorgeous food harvest I will ever get to do! I also planted a sunflower seed at the base of every fence post in the pasture, so fingers crossed, they all pop up!
What’s in a name? I have always loathed baby’s breath until I met this particular type of baby’s breath, Gypsophila Million Stars!!! And CLEARLY, the tiny blossoms do look like a million stars! So I stuffed them in a broken percolator to look like clouds of steam and stars and was tickled at the cheap, messy result! (Fear not, flower arranging is not my backup day job!) But it’s funny how words can change your perception so quickly. As we have been operating on less than a shoestring budget for quite sometime now (me and the rest of the world!!) I wanted to have loads of flowers for not too much money. And once I had culled the bruised peonies that didn’t make the cut from your Mother’s Day orders and stuffed them in my various junk store vases and the few gift vases, I had a house full of girly happy that made the guys SUPER uncomfortable.
So because I made them all work like dogs (where does that come from? my dogs do nothing but demand affection, bark loads and shed entire mattresses of hair) on Sunday, we are going to make it up to them this Friday and BLOW IT OUT in celebration of NATIONAL PIZZA DAY and NATIONAL CHOCOLATE CHIP DAY! -I did not make these days up.-
When I was little Mom used to make Chef Boyardee pizza kits once in a while on Sunday nights and we would get to EAT and WATCH TV (this was unheard of-we did not watch much tv) usually, Murder, She Wrote. ( I adore Angela Lansbury. Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Harvey Girls, Beauty and the Beast, Nanny McPhee, Murder She Wrote-she is way up on my list on “people I would love to have a cup of tea with sometime!!!”)
But, we have grown up sadly, so instead of boxes of magical pizza, this week we are sending you the option of a “Chef Quarantine Pizza Kit!” Homemade dough and sauces, gorgeous cheeses and some luxury add ons so you can celebrate in-style at home! Bake it or grill it!
Most of my favorite things are spontaneous gifts I have gotten over the years. Like this apron from Weez. When we first opened in downtown Wilmington years and years ago, Ms. Weez made me some super light, super soft aprons with pockets. After years of use, abuse and too many washings, the cotton gave way and we hung it in a place of honor at my house. (It’s like my shoulder, torn to shreds…) Right next to these obscenely glittery shoes that I will probably never, ever wear but that Logan got me in a most magical turn of events! I found these shoes in one of my favorite jumble stores. They were new and spoke of a cancelled wedding or perhaps an online purchase that couldn’t be returned but MOSTLY they twinkled and glittered and gave you the option to believe that A. Yes, you are the kind of person that can walk on a church steeple held to your foot with bejewelled dental floss and B. CERTAINLY, as many formal events as you attend, you WILL get your $80 out of these glittering fripperies. And this was even before quarantine, so now…I blather. But, I had visited these shoes longingly 3 times over the course of 2 months. They haunted me. But I knew better. $80 is a LOT of cookies. On the fourth visit to this store, the store had been sold and unfortunate changes were AFOOT. So I greeted the shoes sadly, made a quick lap and we headed to the checkout. Logan was still meandering through the store and a man approached him and asked him if he could help him move a bookshelf to his truck. Logan, of course, agreed. The shelf was crazy heavy and the man felt bad and offered Logan money and Logan said “No, it’s ok” and the man said “What about something from my booth?” GUESS WHICH BOOTH IT WAS!!! I was clueless, by the way, any of this was going on in the hinterland of this warehouse. So Logan says, “Mom is crazy about those shoes” and the man was DELIGHTED to give them to him and THAT is how, through Magical Cheapness and Supreme gentlemanly kindness I am now prepared for a night on the town followed up with a trip to the ER!
But since, really, nobody wants to go the ER, ever, I will take this opportunity to tell you that, we are NOT going to be reopening for a while and are going to stick with curbside for lots of reasons. We have disabled vets, handicapped people, heart conditions and infants in our immediate family and when we ARE open, it is kind of stunning the amount of people who come through that little door on a daily basis. For example, the Saturday before we closed, we had 300 people come through there in 5 hours. That was a Saturday in the off-season. So you can imagine in the summer how the numbers swell. There is no way to clean books and stuffed animals. It’s just not a thing. And for now, until there is a better handle and a clear path to what exactly this new situation is, it seems safest for everyone to stay with this method. This way, nobody has to worry about the treats they pickup or the books or toys they purchase having been sitting geese in a mind-boggling parade of humanity. Other stores have stayed open and are re-opening and we wish them much success and certainly do not question their choices and hopefully when this is all situated we will look like hyper-sensitive silly geese but if that’s the worst that happens, I will be ok.
Thank you for all The Mother’s Day texts, emails and messages! I passed them on to Mom and she said to tell you all “Hello!!! Be Well!” We appreciate all your support as do the farmer’s that you guys have been rallying to keep going in our Coastal Community. This is such a delicious time of year! There will be recipe cards in this week’s CSA bags for some of the delicacies and we always LOVE getting pictures of the foods you made and the #virusgardens you have planted.
HAPPY NATIONAL PIZZA DAY AND HAPPY NATIONAL CHOCOLATE CHIP DAY!
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl
I have a deep, abiding love for glossy magazines. Books too, obviously, but, I have always loved subscribing to magazines ever since the days of Ranger Rick! It’s like having super-glamorous pen pals. This month has been a stretch, I must admit. We all know they plan magazines months in advance (as we are all well educated via “The Devil Wears Prada” yes?) Shooting Thanksgiving scenes in the heat of May, etc, etc BUT all the rambling about resort wear, the cruise line ads and the concert ticket giveaways has set my teeth on edge! I mean, I like escapism as much as anybody (well not escape rooms-those terrify me) BUT it’s really weird reading these magazines that are so completely out of step with the current everything! Anyway, my point is, in one of my magazines there was an article about this woman and the list of mundane tasks she repeatedly avoided and GUESS WHAT, it’s actually a syndrome, so now she feels validated and inspired. UM NO. You just let a grad school intern play fast and loose with shrink terms and you are totally normal like the rest of the world and DON’T WANT TO VACUUM BEHIND YOUR FRIDGE. (Speaking of which, if I had Marie Kondoe-d all my stuff and was now trapped in my apartment for 6 weeks with no old photos or 1000 extra books to read I would be HOT! Hoarding can be healthy.)
So once I had rolled my eyeballs back in from the back of my skull, I continued blithely through my stack of May magazines and then set to my list for the day. Today I had to time to indulge myself in a completely pointless task that had no use to anyone in my family, nothing to do with work or growing food, and everything to do with years of obsession with 2 spectacular books!
“The Shades” is about a magic fountain, I won’t spoil the rest because you need to buy it immediately. “Mandy” is full of wonderful, impossible adventures INCLUDING finding a hidden cottage and making it her own. I have never outgrown the thrill of setting up houses, each house is so distinctly it’s own creature! And in the spirit of hidden houses and treasures, one of the Diane Chamberlain books I just finished has a little girl that finds random bits and buries it as mysterious treasure-type hints!
That being said, our current house has a crazy fountain with a custom-made top piece signed by a long-deceased artist (yes it came with the house). I have on occasion, coaxed it into working for brief spells but had never excavated the bottom to clean out the monkey grass that had taken over. (I loathe monkey grass. And monkeys. This extends even to Curious George and Coco. I don’t care. I have had night terrors about monkeys on ceiling fans since childhood-still do. I am unsure what this means in dream-speak, but in day-to-day it translates into NO MONKEYS, NO MONKEY GRASS.)
So, I weeded and dug and hoed and found broken hay bricks, broken slate, a paintbrush and an old horse bit which was fun, all of which is installed now in my rock garden. I replaced the grass of evil dreams with Mojito Mint and Lemon Thyme, which the pig promptly came over and ate one of the mint and we had a long and serious conversation about respecting each other’s boundaries and overt piggery. Maggie was not impressed.
Pig parenting aside, it was wonderfully frivolous and lots of fun to root around in the dirt and reread those stories in my head. The first time I read “Mandy” I was 8ish and had a perfect Granny Smith apple to crunch as I read through it, and it makes for such a strong combined memory! I hope you have had time to read during the down time, instead of being overrun by worry and speculations and what-ifs. Below are some of my other favorite gardening books that I have read as an adult (Mom has 100 stories for you about Elizabeth Lawrence!)
Because MAY DAY is coming! And in honor of May Day we will have a rainbows worth of flowers all locally grown (even some from our farm!) up on the website tomorrow! Flowers make me so happy.
So the fountain is finished, we did another week of Quarantine Theatre. (Someone emailed and tried to buy the cake topper from the “Days of our Bridezz” episode. Hahhahhaa!) And we are getting ready to load a lot of delicious meats and veggies onto the website. I am so very proud of everyone buying all these local ingredients and turning them into delicious foods! I have also enjoyed getting everyone’s #virusgarden photos and dinner photos and cheese plate photos! Keep ’em coming!
“…Outside the talkative fountain Continues night and day Repeating my warm passion In whatever it has to say…” Charles Baudelaire
One OF the neat things about having friends and family all over the world and the country, is that in this time of oddness, we can get a true play-by-play of what’s going on in different places. We have friends in London, Paris, Canada and Spain and family in big cities and rural towns, so it’s nice to have a perspective with no media influence. If and when, we ever get a news source that isn’t funded by advertising dollars, I will be more inclined to tune in to said news.
In the meantime, we have been cooking our way through both the fun bounty of spring time veggies and fruits and simultaneously mowing through things frozen (I can use vegetable stock about 6000 times a day!) and taking advantage of time-consuming kitchen projects we have not had the time to do! Mozzarella, ricotta, yogurt all those fun things. I have some fun new asparagus recipes I will share at the end of the post.
The garden has been enjoying the deluge of rain and then blazing sun and the cool down! My garden is so full of plants with stories, it’s like a little museum every time I am in it! I have a fig tree that came over from Croatia via Angelica’s dad, and a fig tree my friend Jelena gave me, I have a zucchini plant from my friend Allie and rose bushes from Heirloom Roses from Mom, loads of herbs from Shelton Herb Farm, baby herbs from Green Drop Farms, vintage fencing from my friend Ginny, a fantastic garden cart from Claudia, loamy black dirt from Daddy Pete’s and my friend Amie, old roses from Orton Plantation, tomato plants from seeds saved from my Epic Tomato project from Craig Lehoullier, a chubby greenhouse from my friends at Territorial when they gave me a leg up post hurricane, a vermicomposter from Sara Webster’s mom, hibiscus blossoms from my friend Donna, beautiful fossil rocks for garden borders from our friend’s Tom and Debbie and raised beds built by Shawn from lumber we scavenged different places! Yes, that IS a run-on sentence but you should hear the one’s in my head-way worse.
But we do have deer out here, and foxes, opossums, trash pandas (aka raccoons) and so it makes it a bit dicey at night sometimes with the chickens and the garden BUT Linda and I discovered the other day via HGTV blog that deer HATE Dove Soap! So we shall see if that helps!
One thing there is NOT a lot of on a micro-farm with a Great Pyrenees and 2 boys (ok 3 boys) is SILENCE. (Yes we also have the GSD, Edison, but he is way less noisy, concentrates more on shedding. All German Shepherds should come with a Roomba.) “Feed your soul with silence, that’s where dreams are born.” Susan Branch (susanbranch.com) Like, none, ever. So, in a sanity-preserving effort I have taken to showering. Now, believe it or not, when the bakery was running full time, a shower, a lengthy shower, was a treat! TMI, yes, yes. But we have a variety of animals and people to feed morning and night, and so if I went in by 5 a.m. and didn’t get home till after 7 p.m. you can see how the time for a REAL shower seemed rather impossible! And so, NOW, I light a big, fat soy candle on my clean bathroom counter, put a little cups of baking soda with drops of cypress pine oil beneath the stream of water and escape from dinosaurs, Legos, beer and barking for 10 glorious minutes. Because nothing makes a better filter for your mirror than shower fog and candlelight! And I emerge, temporarily clean and calm-ish. (Which by the way, the new candles we got from Wilmington Candle Company are AMAZING).
If you planted your plants from last week, send us pictures of your #virusgarden ! It’s so interesting to see how plants perform in different parts of our 3 counties! We do have Irises this week from Castle Hayne Farms-their house grown irises make me wish for fields of irises!
And so, we begin another week of quarantine, 7 more days of Quarantine Theatre and 63+meals!!!
The new curbside menu for the week is up, and per request, there are cinnamon rolls and no-bakes! And for poor Victoria, I solemnly swear NOT to let the boys pack your bag this week! I know you thought you were being pranked!!!
Asparagus with Miso Dip!!!
Boil 1 bundle asparagus in super salty water for 2 minutes. Drain and place on a plate in fridge. In small bowl, crush half a clove of garlic with a 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, loosen with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Set aside. In larger bowl, place 2 tablespoons of white miso (did you know we make world famous miso in NC? ) and whisk in 3 tablespoons hot water to dissolve miso. Add in garlic mixture and stir in 2 tablespoons tahini and a drizzle of really nice olive oil. Voila! A yummy asparagus dig or killer salad dressing!
(P.S. If you are wildly irritated that I assumed you had those ingredients on hand and want me to stick a batch in your order just email me 🙂 Shawn will murder me if I add anything else to the website this week. This blog took forever because the cat rolled up with a snake. Bad times for mom.
Words are so, crazy powerful. I sometimes forget, just what they can do. A lot of times, just expressing a sentiment yields results. That seems quite simple. We girls used to play a game at the bakery where we would think of someone out loud and then, lo and behold, that person would call, email or show up!! Sometimes, this was a very, very bad thing, but mostly it was someone we had been wanting to see!! And after this occurred we would marvel at how funny that was that we were JUST talking about that person. (You should ask Claudia about how powerful QUESTIONS are-one time I asked someone an innocent question and this gal UNLOADED on Clauds for 20 minutes in intimate detail while I was doubled over laugh-crying in the next room.) And it didn’t always extend to just people-occasionally it would be an animal or in one case, it was a house we rented for a while on the Island. I just happened to ask, they thought about it, came back 2 days later and said, “Sure, why not?” and then we ended up selling it for them to another customer a few years later. So simple, just words and giving thought to them.
Giving has always been a joy of mine. I worked for a long time at a corporate place that had the philosophy, “…give until it hurts,” which I always thought ABSURD because if you are hurting to give you are not helping ANYONE and simply redoubling the issue. However, to me giving things is supremely satisfying and is one of the many, many reasons you NEVER see me on the counter. In my mind, everyone is entitled to the comfort a cookie gives, the hug that is a muffin or a celebratory cake made just for them to make them feel special even if NOTHING else in the world is going right. Why should these things not be gifts? When we had our shop downtown every person had a tab. Some people would go 45 days without paying. I knew everyone’s story: teachers only get paid once a month, students never have money, single mom’s, all the elderly people on fixed incomes at the retirement home around the corner from us-everyone had a true story and everyone equally needed a latte and a slice of pie. Needless to say, nobody at the bank thought this was a great idea and would repeatedly point out that I was not running a non-profit, but what does one do? How do you say no when you have the power to grant somebody 25 minutes of grace and happiness in a cruddy day? Exactly, you don’t. You just give in.
We have had the opportunity lately to give a great deal of good stuff to Habitat Restore and have begun giving to Share The Table and this has been a nice jolt of fuzzy feel good in the never-ending stream of horrible that is the news.
But I got stuck on the word give the other day and then it seemed like it kept popping up every 10 seconds! (No, not in a creepy my-phone-spies-on-me manner.) A friend of mine came to drop items off at the store and was introducing herself, social-distance style, to another friend outside of the store and she identified herself as “The Giver” and the funny thing was not 20 minutes before I had emailed myself a note about all the things swirling in my head about giving and the book “The Giver” and “The Giving Tree” and how much I hate “If you give a mouse a cookie” and also, quite often I am shouting in my head “GIVE ME A BREAK!!!” and so when she delivered that conversational alley-oop I was done! SIGN DELIVERED. GOT IT.
It has taken some effort to give myself time and space to write-and then there is the inner struggle of “it’s not REALLY writing, it’s a free-style ramble and there is no merit to it” but then I think of one of my all-time favorite blogs by Susan Branch and how I would be gutted if I didn’t have that to read on occasion. And while this is certainly NOTHING, nothing like that, there are people who reach out after particular writings and tell me certain comments bring back good memories and also, how will I ever get good at it if I don’t keep trying? I certainly can’t continually rail at my children to practice their art and music if I’m not doing it and so I have given myself permission to plunk away.
People give us stuff all the time. Somehow, we have become the “Keepers of Things.” Dozens and dozens of people have (pre-pandemic) given us treasures from deceased loved ones, furniture they couldn’t take with them when they moved but didn’t want to sell, old pictures and pottery-not their style but too sentimental to donate and that is why there are so very many items in our store that were never for sale, but merely there for you to enjoy and talk about and for those people to know, were waiting for them when they were ready. I can’t resist a story.
We also get given foodstuffs to feed the voracious appetites of all our farm critters. Phineas T. Piglet is obsessed with the occasional leftover noodles from the New York Corner Deli and Apricot knows to listen for the crinkle of the Jan Farmer ‘bag of old apples”.
I wanted to give you some updated garden pictures too! My #virusgarden has rocketed skyward with the mix of wrathful rains and steaming sunshine (whoever said “steamy” was a sexy word has never done a summer morning in the South covered in biting flies, rivulets of sweat in your eyes and your lungs sucking in STEAM.) The junk bike flowers filled in nicely, though Logan persists in calling her “Tetanus Timmy” since it’s one of my side of the road treasures and my blackberries WOULD be ok if the ye olde hog would LEAVE THEM ALONE.
There were a million tiny flowers in bloom all over the garden and while I was zooming in on all the petite jewels this dragonfly was hanging out with me! Tiny basil buds, lavender, elderberry blossoms, butterfly bush, salvia, tomato flowers, curry, all tiny flowers-all pure magic. Phineas thought he was hiding from me under the curry bush. He still thinks he is a tiny piglet.
I hope you have been enjoying all the delicious produce right now!! The corn is amazing and we have been eating it night and day. The boys like to shuck it because they can throw the corn silks everywhere and the pig (again), chickens and geese hoover it right up!
Thank you for all the birthday wishes! It was very, very low key which is my preferred style for me! I have always hated my birthday because it is always a looming deadline of all the things I laid out for myself to complete that I didn’t. One of the crap things about becoming an adult in the world of restaurants is there is “NO EXCUSE” you are simply late, wrong or you didn’t finish on time and weren’t fast enough or good enough. Isn’t that dumb? So every year, the week before my birthday I am in an absolute lather of self-loathing (boy closing the Little House that week too, sure didn’t help) of all the goals I didn’t accomplish and historically, this year, for the first time EVER I. GAVE. MYSELF. A. BREAK. and let myself blame the lack of forward motion on the pandemic. (ALSO, some woman called LITERALLY the same day we closed it to grill me on the particulars of how could she rent it and what did I think of her business idea? I hung up on her.) Yeah, it’s an excuse, but it is also, most definitely a reason and hideously beyond my control and I couldn’t see any other way around it. So you see, I haven’t given up but am making some adjustments and attempting to calm the control-freak that so loathes this constant state of limbo and not-knowing. Lots of sarcasm and a snarky sense of humor seems to help.
“…I don’t need very much now,” said the boy. “just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.” “Well,” said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, “well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.” And the boy did. And the tree was happy.