New Traditions: Easter Eggs + Onion Soup

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The room: Easter Kitchen and Family Table

There are no wee family members yet, no nieces or nephews, tiny daughters, sons or grandchildren.

But this year, for the first time in at least 15, we—me and the husband, my sister and brother-in-law and my loving parents—dyed Easter eggs.

I’d heard that boiling, then simmering, the skins of 5 yellow onions in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes made a fine, rust-colored, natural dye. 

I’d heard that one could press plant material against an egg, wrap it in gauze or cheesecloth or nylon, soak it in such a dye for a several hours, and end up with Easter egg beautiful, magic and real.

This was all but legend, until this Easter. 

And because I haven’t been saving my onion skins, and needed to peel 5 fresh ones, a new tradition was born.

Make egg dye. Laugh over egg dying. Eat onion soup. This is and will be Easter. 

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A New Season: Things to Share

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The Room: The many places spring resides

Breaking ground this season are new flowers and a myriad of possibilities and projects. All coming soon, here are some of the things I’m looking forward to sharing in words, photos + moving pictures:

Plans for my first garden and the lessons learned in it.
Why I love our bedroom.
Being a part of the Feel Something More campaign by Team A + J.
Recipes for warmer days.
Sentimental stories.
Useful + beautiful tools and objects.

Happy Spring.

Tin Santas + The Family History Tree

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The Room: Christmas Tree Homes of Past, Present + Future

As a child, our tree sagged with ornaments. Brass, glass, child-glued-and-glittered, they hung where two sisters, two parents and one Grandmother chose. No color scheme. No rhyme. Among the many cellar-stored boxes of holiday trappings, the ones most special to me—as a child and still—were those that were most special to my mother.

Tin Santas. Silver and red, muted but magic. Santas that seemed to me older than Christmas Trees themselves, and belonged to a Great Grandmother I never knew. When hung, what they make is a Christmas tree, yes, but also what we call, “The Family History Tree.”

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My mother says she doesn’t know much about those santas, except to say, “They were simply always there.” They belonged to her father’s mother. Because they were not breakable, like other ornaments of her youth were, she was allowed to play with them. And decades later, so was my sister and so was I.  “I see every Christmas that ever was when I hold them and hang them on the tree,” she says, and I believe her.

As those Santas would pass from her hands to mine, I could see, in an instant, her Christmases past. I could conceive of her, a granddaughter, a daughter, a child and a mother, all at once. That silent moment endowed these Saint Nicks with a meaning I couldn’t explain, and still struggle to. I could see that my mother was a person, not just my mother. And if this was true, then my Father and my sister and me, we were something bigger than ourselves too. We were bigger than our family. And this meant something impossibly powerful. Just as soon as this realization would bloom into full color, it would fade. Santa was just an old piece of tin, simple and small, and that felt beautiful, too.

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But in those Santas is an echo of time. They now pass between my hands and my husband’s. They are hung with four generations of ornaments, and new ones that mark the first Christmas in our house. And some day, they will fall from my hands into the hands of child, and to that child I will be at once old and young. Just like those Santas this memory is an unbreakable one. And so, I pass along this story in the holiday spirit of feeling something bigger than ourselves.

Bisquette: French Butter Dish

The Room: Dining Room Studio

A tiny-movie for Katherine Kordaris ‘s Bisquette pottery. Shop her etsy store for beautiful handmade gifts—french butter dishes, coffee pour overs, hand juicers, you name it. (I happen to be a collector, myself. She is quite something special.)

Love + Queen Anne’s Lace for a Bride

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The Room: Roadsides + Railroad Tracks in Roxbury, NY

Love, I’ve always felt, is something made up of many parts. It is a synthesis of time and smells, snapshot memories, sounds, song and the impressions of many, many people. 

Because Love always has room to incorporate more pieces, I feel honored to have picked flowers for the wedding of a Meghan who I love so dearly. 

In fields, on roadsides and railroad tracks, we gathered Queen Anne’s Lace for her tables. And I know that the morning sun, new freckles, train whistles, honeybees and laughter helped make the love around her and her new husband a little bigger that day.

BRIDE

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FLOWER PICKERS

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FORAGE

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TWILIGHT PEONY PICKING

Peony-bench

The bee emerging from deep within the peony departs reluctantly —Matsuo Basho

The Room: The Flower Garden

The peonies inherited with this house have begun to bloom. They are growing heavy with blossoms and beginning to bend. So, just before sunset, I thanked each plant and snipped the three biggest flowers.

These plants with ancient origins, with parentage dating back to 1000 BC, impart a welcome beauty, fragrance and something to meditate on from this bit of earth we now call ours.

Peony-pinksPeony-white       Peony-closed-fuschia

Peony-Set-upPeony-hnadshear       Peony-in-Vase

A MOVE

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The Room: New, Mostly Empty Ones in a House on Some Earth that we can Call our Own

In my time away from here, there has been much reflecting and decision making—on the past, on the future, on home, on partnership, on growing, on change, on what things make a home and a life.

What we (me and that man I love) decided was that we make a home, and we make a life. Not us alone, of course, but we with our love, with our friends, our family, with the meals we make, with the time we spend. And so, we realized, we wanted some more space in which to make those meals and spend that time. With very salty cheeks, I bid farewell to Carroll Street and the New York City borough that was a home for nearly seven years. We traded brownstone and Brooklyn for house and parcel of land in not-too-too-far upper Westchester county.

Boxes are being unpacked, some ground has been broken and meals have already been made. But mostly, in the two weeks since we’ve been in the house, I’ve just been taking the time to feel how I feel—which is truly and deeply grateful. Even though it’s nearly empty, this house is so full of the things that make it home. More regular posts soon to come, on all those things that make it so.

VALENTINE-ING

The Room: Crafty Kitchen of a Dear Friend

One book of old anatomical drawings   /   One book of old art
One black pen   /   One red pen
Two tins of crayons from a Waldorf School of yore 
One pair of scissors   /   One paint brush
Some glue   /   Some red tissue paper
Two cups of tea   /   Two cups of Rose Lillet with fresh grapefruit
Two minds with love for loved ones

The makings of this year’s valentines. (thank you, a. stockwell)

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JADEITE JUICER + MOTHERLY POWERS

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The Room: Carroll Street Kitchen

My mother gives the best gifts. She hears the most quiet yearnings and un-uttered wants. This 1930’s hand-juicer was made as a promotional partnership with Sunkist, when no American kitchen was complete without a piece of jadeite. That thoughtful mother of mine, after reading my mind as only she can, waded through antique stores with eyes peeled to find me one. And so, all juice made with it tastes just a bit sweeter, with sentiments from Momma. 

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SAVED-FROM-SUMMER-BLUEBERRY MUFFINS (THE GLUTEN-FREE KIND)

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The Room: Carroll Street Kitchen + A Freezer-Full of Summer

At the end of our ritual August trip to our Island-home, Mom-in-law-to-be, handed me a giant bag of blueberries from her garden, “For the freezer, so you can have a bit of summer when you need it.” 

It’s cold. So today, I needed it. 

Excited to use my new cast-iron half-dozen muffin pan, I also thought I’d try something else new. I typically blend varying gluten-free flours, each mixture unique to each recipe—but today, in the spirit of summer-ease, I used Bob Red Mill’s All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour. And it worked like a charm. The recipe:

makes 6 muffins

1 cup all-purpose gluten free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/3 cup agave
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup milk (cow, soy, rice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/3 cup frozen (preferably saved-from-summer) blueberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. If using a cast-iron pan, make sure it’s well-seasoned, and preheat it at this step, too. 
Mix together all the dry ingredients. Add agave, coconut oil, milk, vanilla and lemon zest to the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. (If your coconut oil is hard, use a fork, or hand blender, to break it into pieces until it mixes well.)
Fold in blueberries.
Remove pan from oven and fill each cup with batter. 
Bake for 25 minutes, rotating the pan after 12. Use the toothpick test if you  like. 
Let cool for 5-10 minutes, pop-out of pan and eat. 

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SHORTBREAD HEARTS (THE GLUTEN-FREE KIND)

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The Room: A Love-Inspired Carroll Street Kitchen 

Sweet, heart-shaped cookies. Buttery and a bit sinful, these are quite the treat and beg to be accompanied by a milk (of sorts) or coffee or tea (and jam if you’re dedicated to sweetness).

Makes about 36 cookies

1 1/3 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup sweet sorghum flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
14 tablespoons softened butter
3/4 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Combine flours, cornstarch, salt, baking powder and xanthan gum in a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, cream together butter, sugar and vanilla.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well. This will take some muscle and patience. This particular gluten-free dough may not quite come together completely—there may be some sandy bits, but I promise, it’ll be ok. As long as you can form it into a cohesive ball you’ll be able to make it work. It’s the rolling that will make or break (yes, literally) your cookies.
Cover baking sheets with parchment paper. 
Very lightly rice flour your cutting or pastry board. Pack about half of your dough into a ball and place on board. Roll out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Your dough may crack and split, but I found that rolling form the outside to the middle compressing dough as I rolled helped to seal those cracks for a smooth, cookie-cutter-perfect dough. (If you can’t achieve that, you can always roll dough with your hands into 1-1/2-inch balls and bake that way.)
Cookie cut your dough and place on baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 25 minutes. The gluten-free dough won’t brown the way a traditional dough does, so, go by time and touch. 
Let cool, share and enjoy. 

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FRENCH ONION SOUP, FINALLY

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The Room: Carroll Street Kitchen

I have been craving French Onion Soup for weeks. So, today, I contentedly spent time at the stove, browning and browning onions, and savoring the smell of them simmering in wine. Then, with deep satisfaction, I poured a bowl for me, and for Man, and topped them with big, cheesy sourdough croutons, and slurped away. A recipe below, put together with the sage advice of my friend Shaina.

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2 Tablespoons butter
5 yellow onions, sliced
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 cups white wine
2 quarts stock of your choosing
Country Bread—a thick slice per soup bowl
Grated Gruyer—enough to heap on each bread slice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a soup pot over medium heat.

Add onions, salt, and pepper. Cook until a deep, golden brown. This takes time, it’s true. They will start to stick, it’s true. And, truly, it’s all worth it! Just keep stirring, and in about 30 minutes, or so, they will turn brown, just before burning, and they will be rich and sweet. 

Once your onions brown, add white wine, and reduce this mixture, at the same heat, until syrup-like. You’ll know it’s syrupy enough when you push a spoon through it and it takes a moment for the liquid to fill the little path you made in the pot.

(You can preheat your oven to 475 degrees for cheesy crouton topping, during the above step.)

Now, add stock, bay leaves and thyme, and simmer for 10 minutes.
While simmering, sprinkle your bread pieces with a generous amount of cheese, and bake for 8-10 minutes—until very melty.

Remove herbs from soup, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Taste! 

Ladle soup into bowls and top with cheese crouton. Savor. 

Table for One … Pooch

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The Room: The Dog House—the cozy kind

It’s a new year—even for Maggie the dog, who will now dine and drink from new, enamel bowls from Crow Canyon Home.

And, if you’ve moved in the last 6 moths, I’ve probably sent you two of their perfectly simple, white and blue-striped enamel mugs—for fireside, couch or breakfast nook.  

Mini-Ornament Window Garland

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The Room: Holiday Carroll Street Living Room

I’ve squeezed too-big-trees into this tiny apartment before. But this year, with full days, time away and more hustle and bustle than years past, small and simple decorations will have to suffice. I’ve got a vase of pine and sparkle berry, I’ve got some pinecones tacked to a grapevine wreath, but oh was I missing trimming the tree.

So I trimmed my window.

I grabbed my tiniest, colored glass ornaments (from my favorite local gifts+goods store) and baking twine from the kitchen. 

Then laid them out in some sort of random-ish order, and tied them on, one-by-one, with some sort of even-ish distance in between.  Voila. 

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An Advent Dinner, Spiral + Singing

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The Room: A Celebratory Kitchen + Living Room of a Friend + Neighbor

This season is about more than our own traditions. It’s about sharing in the ritual of those people that are dear to us, expanding our sense of ourselves, our spirituality and our ability to love. Last weekend I shared in a lovely tradition with a new friend. This annual Advent Dinner, brings together guests spanning age, bloodlines and geography. We gathered over a roast lamb to hold hands, give thanks, light candles, walk an Advent Spiral and—my favorite of all—join in song. And it filled me up, with food, yes, and also, the spirit of Christmas.

Merry, merry everyone.

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