Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Strawberry galette: Luscious strawberries wrapped in buttery pastry. What's not to love?

Things I'm looking forward to:

*Strawberry season--I couldn't wait and bought some from the grocery a couple of weeks ago. I made a wonderfully easy strawberry galette, but that only whet my appetite. I can't wait to make strawberry pie and a whole host of strawberry dishes that I discovered last year: decadent cupcakes, muffins, ice cream, and frozen yogurt.

*Turning in my final two papers and going to my last class of the semester tonight. Hip hip hooray! I baked these cocoa cookies for the class potluck celebration.

*The Kentucky Derby is this weekend, which means my out-of-town relatives are coming to visit. I'm looking forward to catching up.

*The Phoenix Hill Farmers' Market will be back in full-swing starting May 4th.

*Our CSA subscription will also start soon, and I'll be blogging about it once again. I'm looking forward to the spring lettuces. We finally got a salad spinner, so no more tea towel helicopter drying games for me. I also can't wait for the strawberries (see the ridiculously long recipe list above), tomatoes, and okra.

*K and I are moving very soon to a gorgeous little apartment just down the road. We're going to be even closer to all the places I like to walk--the grocery, post office, library, park, yarn shop, movie store, pizza place, etc. The moving festivities (doesn't that sound better than chores like packing, lifting, sorting, etc?) will likely keep me away from this space for a while, but I look forward to blogging soon from our new office/sewing room.

What are you looking forward to?

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Fun fact: I deleted about 10 exclamation points from this post to make it easier and less annoying to read. But if you want to experience this post as it sounds in my head, imagine me saying all of this in a jubilant, breathless half-shout with barely a pause between words.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Best find ever...

I've been keeping this find under my hat for a few months now. I meant it to be a birthday present for my dad, whose birthday is still a month away, but I just couldn't keep it from him any longer. Now that his early birthday present is in his hands, I can safely share my find with you.

Back February K and I went for a day trip to Bardstown, Kentucky and spent our Saturday eating fried pickles, drinking chocolate malts, and browsing through antique shops.

It had been a long day and we were heading home when I remembered I'd seen an intriguing antique shop just off the interstate near Shepherdsville. One more shop, I pleaded, it will be the last one, I promise. Though he was already antiqued-out, my husband agreed.

The shop was pretty small, set up with booths in a large circle. I walked all the way around, not finding anything at all interesting and feeling pretty bad for dragging K through one more shop. In one of the last booths was a stack of old yearbooks from the University of Louisville. They were from the late 1940s and early 1950s.

My mind flipped through its little rolodex. Could I know someone in these books? I pulled out one from 1951, my heart thumping like crazy. In the Dental School section I saw a name I recognized. My last name, printed nearly 60 years ago.  My eyes scanned the page and my stomach flip-flopped around. I felt oddly nervous and excited, like the feeling you get on the first day of school.

Then I saw him and my heart nearly burst. My grandpa, my dad's dad, Hilary (though everyone called him Booty), smiling his twenty-five-year-old smile in the middle of the page. He looked so handsome and so young, with curly hair and bright eyes. It was a face I hadn't seen in 15 years, and when I knew my grandpa, he certainly didn't look like this picture. 

When I knew him his hair had gone and his face had wrinkled. He still had those kind eyes and that quiet smile, though. He gave himself daily insulin shots. Sometimes my grandparents would babysit me, and when my grandma went to church I was terrified of being left alone with him. I was afraid his blood sugar would get too low, and I'd be the one responsible. I remember feeling like a terrible granddaughter because I was scared, but I couldn't get that scene from "Steel Magnolias" out of my head.

When I knew him he wore gray sweats and ate oatmeal for breakfast every day. I don't remember ever seeing him in a suit. It's the sweats I remember. Looking at this photo, I wonder if he picked out the tie he's wearing or if maybe my grandma, Alice, did. They would have been expecting the first of their eight children then, and my grandpa would have gotten up early to deliver papers the morning this picture was taken. I think he looks happy here, a look he never lost.

It's funny how this yearbook made me think about my grandpa more than I have in a very long while.

I remember how he used to sing a little rhyme whenever he saw me, a rhyme with our last name in it. I was his sixth grandchild, but the first to share his last name.

I remember how he'd walk outside in his sock-feet without thinking anything of it. I'm guessing my grandma did the laundry.

I remember hearing stories of how he'd barter if people couldn't pay their dental bills. He got a horse and a goat that way.

My grandpa had a passion for watching horse races nearly all his life. He grew up near Churchill Downs and used to sneak into the track through a hole in the fence to bet the races. With the Kentucky Derby coming up, I can't help but think of him and how much he would have enjoyed knowing that our whole family still gets together to watch the Derby. We drink and bet and celebrate, just like he would if he were still here. And there's always a card game going after the last race. He loved playing poker.

I'm just a year older than he is in this picture, and I can't help but wonder what my life will  hold. I'm willing to bet I won't have eight kids, but I would like to celebrate the Derby with my family every year and sing rhymes to my grandkids.

I bought the yearbook, of course. I couldn't put it down. It really felt like I was meant to have it.

And now the yearbook is in my dad's hands. I think it has even more meaning to him because he followed in his dad's footsteps and became a dentist. His office is near Churchill Downs and some of his patients were my grandpa's patients. I'm very glad it's there instead of gathering dust in a shop.

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One more little fun fact, if you're still reading. My dad told me that the dark-haired man next to my grandpa still teaches at the Dental School. Can you believe that? It's pretty amazing.

Friday, April 23, 2010

this moment: ohio river at sunset

a lovely moment from my week that i'd like to keep with me for a long while.

not pictured: the dinner for a great cause, great conversation, and great friends that went along with this view.

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see more moments on soulemama.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Julie!

Happy 21st Birthday to my sister, Julie!

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I hope this will be your best year yet!
I also hope that volcanic ash cloud clears up so that you can fly back home in a few short weeks.
*fingers crossed*

Friday, April 16, 2010

this moment: peach ice cream, two spoons

peach ice cream and eyes that say, "picture-taking time is over. let's eat!"

i'm participating in the {this moment} series. each week i capture a moment i want to remember and post it here.

see more moments here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tassajara Whole Milk Bread

Let me preface this by saying that before I read blogs, I'd never heard of The Tassajara Bread Book. I still don't know how to say it because I've only read about it.* Amanda has mentioned it lots of times on her blog SouleMama, and I take her recommendations pretty seriously. She lives the life I dream of living.

I tried searching the public library catalog for this book, but they don't have it (for shame!). So it has been on my mental list for ages, the list I use when I go treasure-hunting at used book shops. Since I don't usually buy new books, I figured the only way I was going to get The Tassajara Bread Book was if I got lucky. Last Thursday, luck was on my side.

Whole milk loaves

The spine caught my eye at the book sale. It was jumbled in a pile of other books, and I was so excited when I pulled it out and discovered that it's the bread book I've been looking for. I snatched it up and kept it hugged close for the rest of my book sale browsing. I certainly didn't want anyone to try to take it!

The copy that I now call mine is from 1970 and has a handwritten New York City address (but no name) on the inside cover. I love imagining the stories of previous book owners. I wonder how many loaves of bread have been made with this very book at hand. From the looks of the rustled up pages, I'm guess a whole heck of a lot.

Kneaded dough with honey and violets

Friday I set about making bread. The yeasted bread made with milk looked good to me, so that's what I chose. It made a smooth, supple dough that was a joy to mix up and knead. Kneading is my favorite part of bread-making; it makes me feel like a kid playing in the mud again. Those 10 or so minutes spent pushing and folding the dough around the bread board stretch out and seem like a long time. The rhythm takes over so that while my hands are occupied, my mind has time to think. 

Arched loaves

This recipe made two loaves, which baked up tall and dark. K, the resident bread cutter, sliced one loaf thin for sandwiches and the other thick for making French toast. I'm really happy with the texture of this bread--it's sturdy without being heavy--and the flavor is substantial with a little bit of sweetness from the honey in the dough.

I'll definitely be making this recipe again, and I can't wait to try out others from this book. Have any of you used Tassajara bread recipes that you'd recommend? I'm really curious about what to try next.

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*It's that j--do you say it like a j, an h, a y or something else completely?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What happens when I study outside...

The urge to pick bouquets of violets sometimes overcomes me. 

Best study break ever.

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How's your weekend?

 Mine has been so full of sun, walks, sewing, studying, baking, talks, wine, and hand holding.

I'm hoping yours has been full, too.

Friday, April 9, 2010

this moment: book sale/bake sale

one of my favorite moments this week.

more moments are over here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Virtual Hanami Party

Today is a gray and rainy spring day in Kentucky, perfect for tea drinking and splashing my way to class. Not so perfect for taking one of the sunny strolls I've been treating myself to. Since I can't get outside and walk, I thought I'd revisit some places I've been, places where I'd love to return.

Won't you come along on this virtual walk with me? It's going to require some imagination. We're going to have to imagine we can fly or perhaps teleport around the world to Japan, where hanami parties are going on as we speak.

Osaka Castle

Hanami mean flower-viewing in Japanese. People spread blue tarps beneath the trees, eat rice balls and grilled fish, drink sake and cold beers, and gaze up at the pink sakura (cherry) blossoms. Parties go on late into the evening until the sky is so dark that the blossoms are no longer visible. The only way you sense their presence is the sweet smell that lingers in the air, mingling with the smokiness left from grilling.

Our first stop is the green-roofed Osaka Castle perched amongst a bevy of cherry trees, their branches heavy with blossoms. An air of festival surrounds that castle, making it seem like a separate world from the large modern city around it. Vendors sell food--Osaka specialties like takoyaki and sweets like taiyaki, filled with bean paste.

Himeji Castle

Next we find ourselves at Himeji Castle, nestled between Osaka and Hiroshima. We're not the only ones here. It seems half of Japan has heard about the beauty of this castle in the springtime when its gardens fill with pink flowered trees. There's a festival in full swing here, and we even get to try our hand at making mochi, pounding the rice with a heavy wooden mallet into a smooth, chewy paste. It's delicious when filled with bean paste and dusted with ground sesame seeds.

Scattered flowers on moss at Ginkakuji--The Silver Temple

We backtrack a bit for our last stop, the Silver Temple in Kyoto where the garden is filled with dozens of different kinds of mosses--soft, scraggly, short, lush. The trees here have dropped some blossoms. The sun filters through the branches, dappling moss and petals with light. Breathe in the warm air. It's calming, no?

I think we should go for tea now--green--to be drunk outdoors on a bed of moss beneath the cherry trees.

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I hope you enjoyed the walk (and the flying and teleporting...we are skilled travelers). Have a great day!

* * * * *

These pictures were taken in Spring of 2008 when my uncle came to visit K and I in Japan. We traveled to Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, and Hiroshima. We managed to time it so that the cherry trees were in bloom in every place we visited. Amazing!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Looking Up

These past few weeks I have fallen back into walking--sometimes strolling, sometimes at a quick pace that nearly takes my breath away. I walk alone on errands to the library, post office, video shop, or for exercise and fresh air. I walk with company to dinner, to bars, to spy new apartments, to chat, and to laugh.  

Always I am looking. I take note of flowers, name trees (this book is helping), search for new details on houses that I've passed many times. I truly love the neighborhood where I live.

The first signs of spring that I found dotted the grass like colorful easter eggs. Now the trees are all in flower, coloring the sky and giving the daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths some competition for my attention. I snapped these photos on a number of walks last week. 

(If you know my husband, you should probably ask him to identify the plants in these last two photos. I just like to make sure he's been listening to me babble enthusiastically tell him about all the plant names I've been learning.)

I'll leave you with a poem about the strength and calmness of trees.

I Go Among Trees and Sit Still

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
Around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
Where I left them, asleep like cattle...
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
And the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

--from Sabbaths by Wendell Berry

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Thanks to Maria for her post, which inspired me to read Wendell Berry again.

Friday, April 2, 2010

this moment: reading at the library

this encapsulates many of my moments this week.

see more moments here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stacks full of secret beauty


 It's that time of the semester when my head is stuck in a book nearly all day. I really like this time because I love to read, but it's also a time when my stomach ties itself in knots at the thought of all the papers I must write very soon.

Yesterday when the thoughts of "there's too much to do!" came on, I headed up to a tucked-away, magical place that's filled with the prettiest books around. It's a quiet stretch of the library with shelves and shelves of early- to mid-twentieth century books that seem to live there. No one ever checks them out, and I've yet to see anyone browsing their titles besides myself. It seems like a secret place that would be just perfect for a picnic-style tea party. Can you imagine spreading a quilt in the stacks and having cake and tea?


Robert Nathan's books are some of my favorites. I've never read them, mind you, but just to look at them snuggled together with their soft, faded covers worn from long-ago readers makes me feel so happy.

Anais Nin's books come in an array of wonderful colors. You can tell someone carefully chose the colors of cloth for the covers, thinking of how they would look all lined up together. 

Here are some more of Anais Nin's diaries, gloriously faded. I'm wondering how some came to be more washed-out than others. Perhaps they were donated by different people and someone stored their books on a sunny desk? I like to think that these books had a life somewhere before, curled up within arm's reach in a golden pool of sunlight.

Myrtle Reed's books come in grays, lavenders, and golds. I love those designs on the spines. If I were judging these books by their covers, I'd call them all wonderful.

I've already forgotten the title of this book, but doesn't it look like such a promising cover? So noir! This is one I'd love to curl up with on the couch, reading late into the night.

I'll leave you with this cover from one of Myrtle Reed's books. Isn't it dreamy? It takes me far away to medieval European abbeys and castles.  
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Do you have a place you go to get away from the world? I'd love to hear about!


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