Last year, a friend who had hosted a giant Thanksgiving dinner tipped me off to the most thoughtful hostess gift: breakfast for the next morning. As a host, what could be better following the days of cooking and hours of cleaning involved in these epic holiday feasts than having someone else plan a meal for you?
And as a guest, it’s pretty simple to pick up a dozen bagels, bake muffins, make a quiche, whip up a batch of Jane Lerner’s granola or, if staying overnight, wake the house up with a pan of Adam Miller’s chilaquiles. You will surely score yourself a return invite every holiday. And that’s certainly something to be grateful for.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Pass the stuffing… tip the turkey to me… and wishing heaping helpings of love and gratitude to all.
There are always those recipes that call for a tablespoon of this, a dollop of that or a quarter cup of an exotic or rarely-used ingredient. Said item then sits in your refrigerator, ducking behind those everyday stars – like milk and orange juice – just taunting you to make use of it before it morphs into a science experiment.
The latter is usually the way those things go over here. But there are those rare moments when I become this resourceful (not wasteful) keeper of the kitchen. And so I had to share this recipe for a lemon buttermilk cake that saved me from dumping the creamy remains of this icebox lurker.
It’s spongy, lemony and all-around delicious – the only thing I would change is to double up on the glaze. With the dairy-heavy ingredients, I have this vision of this recipe as one handed down between the generations of a farming family. Somewhere out in the Midwest, on a green patchwork of well-tended fields, the creamy batter would be stirred with love and efficiency in a farmhouse kitchen, and placed in a window to cool, or until a small hand couldn’t resist crumbling off a corner.
Agrarian roots or not, this is a darn good cake, and perfect excuse to use the leftover buttermilk taking up space in your fridge.
I haven’t pitched a tent, lit a camp stove or burrowed deep into the secure cocoon of a sleeping bag as owls called out to no one in particular, in far too long. Nine years to be exact. The last camping trip I mapped out was to the Apostle Islands, but that was also the same summer that my dad died, and I cancelled the trip. So when my friend Jane threw together a last minute mid-week camping excursion, I couldn’t refuse.
And I’m so grateful that I was able to juggle schedules and move work and childcare days around to get out to Woodland Valley Campground in Phoenicia, New York, tucked into the Catskills at the foot of Slide Mountain.
The tidy campground established by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s, was practically empty on this Wednesday in October, and we had our pick of sites. Signed off on all the bear disclaimers and bundles of firewood purchased, we pitched our domestic domes on the bend of a gentle stream that slipped over a shallow, rocky river bed. And attended to very important matters, like setting the beer to cool in the stream. Nice work, Sue.
Crunching leaves underfoot, we strolled to the trailhead which led to substantial ascents to the ridgeline, but we only had enough daylight for a healthy scramble part of the way up. This was a power camping round, but we did it all: Jiffy Pop on the fire, a gourmet feast of rich black beans and Alaskan salmon (thank you Iliama Fish Co.) and s’mores roasted over the fire pit. There was strong French press coffee in the morning and the newest trick in the outdoorsy book: heating individual scented face wipes in a pot of bowling water to freshen and warm up in the morning. My idea of a spa retreat. It was nourishing on every level, and I can’t wait to return in the spring…
With somewhat regular desk jobs (translation: less free-roaming vacation time) this past year, summer travel was more about the long weekend away and revisiting tradition. Some old, like time spent at the family cottage (100 years old this summer!) in Bellaire, Michigan.
Others newer, such as the three-summers-old tradition playing castaway on Cuttyhunk Island off the coast of Cape Cod. This year we loaded up on groceries, wine and diapers and stayed for one whole blissful week on island.
And, something we hope that will become a tradition, an escape to the Floating Farmhouse, in Eldred, New York, for the birthday of a dear friend. The meandering drive along two-lane roads trimmed with farm stands by way of New Jersey, with a jog into Pennsylvania and back over the New York state line to the Catskills, made it feel like more of an adventure than the two and a half hour journey it was.
This 200-year-old farmhouse was artfully revamped to blend the existing structure – wide wood floors, exposed beams, rustic wall planks – with new elements. Most notable was the open kitchen with its wood-burning pizza oven and soaring wall of windows facing the pine-dense forest. Ok, we were all ga-ga over the deep soaking tubs, vaulted ceilings and generous porch perched on the muddy pond, too.
Frogs croaked their creaky songs at night on the pond. A black bear sauntered through the woods in plain sight. People wandered out to the gazebo with coffee in hand and a book, or rocked in the hammock. Frisbee breaks were mandatory and frequent. Like a group of test kitchen chefs, we worked on perfecting a pizza crust recipe. We lazed for hours on the loungers surrounding the pond. And we laughed, a ton. It was filling on all levels. And I can’t wait to get back there again next summer…or, in any season, for that matter.
I had a goodbye-for-now lunch with a friend who was off to travel and write her way around the world for the next year. And, in an unexpected turn of events, she presented me with a parting gift. Ever-generous, it was in keeping with her nature, and it was something that I never knew I needed – a bag of decorative paper scraps.
There were bright gold sheets, crinkly tails, thick card card stock and wallpaper-worthy Japanese-style prints. Soren ripped right into it and we made kites and oddball collages, and I’ve found that the scraps make perfect gift cards.
Gather up your own assortment of colorful scraps, or pick up one of the gorgeous grab bags from the Paper Source. It’s just the thing for paper lovers of all ages – especially crafty kids.
We all strive for some sort of meaning in the daily grind. Some just have it more figured out than others – and there is loads to be learned from those folks. With that in mind, my husband, Todd, began interviewing people who seem to be on the right path to finding joy in what what they do. In creating This Is Not Going to Work, he hopes to offer (and discover) ”… a little motivation from those who have “figured it out” to all of the people who are on the path.” Who couldn’t use a dose of that?
We experienced the perfect reason-to-escape storm earlier this month: a wedding of a dear friend, Todd’s birthday and a grandmother all-too-willing to take on our toddler for four whole days. As an added bonus, we were returning to wine-soaked Sonoma, where we had spent a long weekend following our wedding. Our first trip as Mr.+Mrs., and one that kicked-off our year of sporadic travel (everywhere from northern Wisconsin to Japan) that we classified as our honeymoon.
Years ago we stayed at the mod cottages of the Duchamp in Healdsburg, a town that has been significantly built up in the last seven years. This trip was also coupled with a work jaunt (I know, tough gig) and we bunked at the charming Farmhouse Inn. Here’s a little dispatch/postcard from our weekend among the vines, and a few pics we snapped, too.
Local bounty at Shed.
Winery picnic with friends. I could do this every day.
Just your average Friday afternoon.
Gorgeous couple, gorgeous setting. Congrats Julie + Ben!
Birthday swim in the Russian River.
The towers of dark berries have returned to the farmers market and that calls for berry crumble. I will take chocolate anything over a fruit pie, always. But, there is something about the jumble of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries with that buttery oatmeal cookie-like topping that I can’t pass up this time of year. Oh, and it’s super easy to make too, which only helps the cause.
1 cup blueberries
1 cup blackberries
1 cup raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
Preheat oven to 375°. Adjust oven rack to upper third. Rinse and drain berries. Toss berries with sugar, lemon juice, and 2 tsp. flour and pour into 9″ glass pie plate. In medium bowl, blend remaining flour, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and oats with fingers until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over berries. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until fruit is bubbly and top is browned. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
The season of the last minute barbecue, patio drinks and front stoop hang is on. So, in an effort to keep the good times rolling, remember to arrive with a little something. While most people get this idea of basic contribution and general thoughtfulness, I’m always surprised by people who show up empty handed. And then go on to knock back a six-pack leaving the hosts with zilch.
Last summer, I watched a group of legitimate adults swoop in on a party, wipe out the contents of the cooler and then make their leave. So, perhaps this concept of adding something to the party isn’t one that’s so well understood.
It was once considered in poor taste for a host to serve a bottle that guests presented as a gift. But, that would also imply that your host has a generous stash on hand, and I don’t know too many people with a deep wine cellar in their one-bedroom apartment. So, if you plan on drinking wine or beer, stop off and grab an interesting local brew, bottle of wine or cider that you’d like to share. If you really want to get fancy, come with the fixings for signature cocktails, like white sangria or negroni punch.
If a teetotaler, pick up a bottle of sparkling lemonade or fizzy water. And, if you want to go the extra step, flowers are always lovely too, especially for a dinner party. It’s just the idea of adding something to the party other than your lovely self, of course.
My parents took table manners very seriously. Which is why probably why my sisters and I thought that the poem about the Goops – bald-headed urchins who spilled their soup and gabbed with their mouths full – was so hilarious. The Goops brazenly broke every single one of our parent’s rules (and then some). It’s one of the earliest poems I can remember reciting in front of a classroom, and I can rattle it off now.
I’ve noticed a trend lately of dinner napkins and prim cocktail coasters embroidered with polite reminders of basic etiquette. Have we collectively become that much lazier about our elbows? Has the most basic please or thank you fallen that far out of fashion? Perhaps. Or, maybe it’s a trend right out of my parent’s playbook, that you can’t possibly be told enough times to sit up straight or to finish chewing before arguing a point.
Six, crisp cotton Mind Your Manners napkins from Denver based Urban Bird & Co.
Salvaged burlap place mats from One Kings Lane.
Daintily embroidered cocktail napkins by Joetta Maue for Anthropologie.