seasonal

LILACS, TREES, PEONIES | LIFE AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA

 

Home. Ohio. The United States.

My mom's lilac bush is overflowing and offering us a truly engulfing scent experience. To awake in Ohio with a  vase of lilacs by our bedside was, how shall I say, intoxicating. Peony season is nigh. Being sure to say hello to the little ants crawling all over them, I pressure the peonies to bloom before we leave again. The birds are up well before the light of sunrise, chattering and planning away. I imagine they are saying something like, "Where are the good worms today? Hey, want to fly three towns over just because we can?" How fortunate they are. My favorite thing about this season — more than the flowers, the honeybees, the wildlife — are the trees before a storm. Have you ever noticed the way trees rustle and wave right before a summer thunderstorm hits? I have long imagined that the rustling is in fact the trees excitedly talking to each other, saying "hold on tight and drink up, it's gonna be a good one!" A bit of magical realism, maybe, but magical all the same.

All this to say: A few days of normalcy feels divine. When we left Greece last weekend we left social media for one year, too. Mark and I had been talking about our mutual desire to unplug from platforms that left us feeling less than satiated. The social media well had run dry; it was unfruitful. I wondered if leaving social media meant I would lose the connections with friends that I had made across the world; Mark wondered if our blog would lose readership. In the end we decided it just does not matter. Things good and true have a propensity for existing in the most genuine realms of our lives, and for us Instagram and Facebook no longer felt genuine. Even in this new normal of All The Time Access, community and opportunity must exist outside of the internet; they always have. More than anything, I did not want to fritter away precious moments of my life to the Internet. Zuckerberg doesn't deserve that much of my time. (Heh heh.)

Undistracted living has created the space for my imagination to flourish. Negative space is not filled with stimulation or scrolling. I have lost track of my phone, out of battery in the other room, for days at a time. It would sound inconsequential, but I did not lose track of my phone when I was using Instagram.

In the days sans curating Instagram or Facebook posts, I have listened to the trees. I have talked to bugs. I have sat quietly next to my husband without distraction. I have felt like the 1990s and before. I have felt like myself. How sweet it is to be so enveloped in the charisma and calm of a Midwest spring; a Midwest existence. 


—S

OUR WEDDING: PT. 1 | THE ETHIC OF SEASONAL

 

On a not-too-cold, overcast January day, we were married. With only our nearest and dearest family and friends present, George Harrison, Marvin Gaye, and Duke Ellington sang + played all day long. We foraged, found, or borrowed everything, and we had eight pounds of coffee at the ready. There were tears—my word, so many tears—and a smooch to seal the deal. Our send off was a full group circle singalong to 'Rocky Raccoon'—a longtime dream of mine. With these things and with so much more we were wed. While I simply cannot describe the day in full, I do intend to write on the facets that made it so rich. Our inclination was correct: simplicity and joy marry quite well with sustainability and seasonality. Excuse the pun.

Save for the disposable cameras lying about, there was nothing disposable about our wedding. We spent many hours ensuring nothing—except people—traveled far to join us for our celebration. Our ethics as a couple are deeply centered around seasonality. It is our ardent belief that choice in life should be dictated by nature. Only in recent years have we even had the option of deviating from Mother Nature's seasonal offerings. The myriad of expectation that wedding websites, Instagram, and American culture place on the engaged couple are unbelievable. As for Mark and I, we are surrounded by family who believe in the ethic of small, of simple, of paring down to the necessities. Our top priorities were to remain local, to source seasonally, and to spend money on a new product if and only if it was made by an artisan we got to know personally. (To that point, I cannot wait to share in a future post about our shoes and our rings.)

leah with flowers

A branch that Mark had found out in the woods hung with prominence. Hops that I'd gathered off the table at a conference lined the table and accented my flower crown. Mark and I made french presses using locally-roasted coffee and served our loved ones as they held their mugs out. Pieces of honeycomb from our hive lined the windowsill. My mama and I picked out each plate and bowl from Goodwill, and have since donated all of them back. 

There were a smattering of cloth napkins in my great-grandma's market basket, which sat atop a wooden chair built by my great-grandpa, her husband. My new mama-in-law baked our wedding cake: her famous coconut cake, unassuming and perfect in form. All greenery and flowers were 100% in season—most everything was picked up from a nearby flower grower, and some of it was foraged. With the help of my mama-in-law and her sister, we made gorgeous, fragrant, textural bouquets. Below, I've listed everything we used to do so, just in case you get the hankering to build your own wedding / party / bouquet.


WEDDING BOUQUET: HOW-TO

In lieu of listing formal steps, my recommendation is to check out a few books on floral design from the library, try to use color and texture to accentuate your centerpiece, and play around! Take it slow and do not give up. Make floral wire your friend. Everything we used came from Karen Geiser's farm in Kidron, Ohio, unless it has an * next to it, in which case it was purchased at Local Roots in Wooster, Ohio. Working with Karen was a dream. She let my mom and I tromp around her farm in muck boots, picking out anything we wanted to use for our January wedding. She is creative, and open, and authentic. If you're an Ohio bride... I cannot recommend her enough. Email me if you're interested in working with Karen or would like to learn more about my experience.

TOOLS
floral wire - in multiple sizes
garden snips or scissors
burlap or floral ribbon
twine

 

 

GREENS + FLOWERS
kale
scented geranium
curly willow branches
dried lavender*
rosemary*
dusty miller
bamboo
scotch pine


—S
other pieces pictured: pinched cups | french press coffee paddle

NEW ADVENTURES + NEW FLAVORS | GOAT CHEESE TWO WAYS

 
TableSetting

I started a new job last month at a wonderful place called Lucky Penny Creamery. The opening was for a part-time delivery gig, butlike most life things—reality has strayed far from the plan. After a few weeks of building websites, running donation drives, and campaigning against national food policy, among other things, I am beginning to question the point of making any specific life plans at all. It has been an exciting, challenging, and slightly scary start to a new adventure.

With a new job comes new perks, and one particular benefit of my affiliation with Lucky Penny makes my life feel much fancier than it really is. A few times now, I have come home toting several pounds of goat cheese (or chèvre). This past weekend, that comically oversized bag of cheese was accompanied by an assignment to craft a simple holiday recipe using Lucky Penny's chèvre.

We developed two different spreads. The first, a Honey + Balsamic chèvre, is moderately sweet and tempers the tanginess of the goat cheese while maintaining the earthy integrity. Using good honey is the key. The second, an anything-but-sweet Winter Spice chèvre, is perfect for dolloping on eggs or a whole grain cracker. It's a little bit Moroccan, a little bit Indian, and very holiday-centric.

BowlofChevre
PouringCarrotJuice
carrot-juice
spreads

WILDFLOWER HONEY + BALSAMIC CHÈVRE
2 tb. Down Home honey (hey, that's us! but any local honey will be good)
1 tb. balsamic vinegar
1 c. Lucky Penny Creamery Chèvre

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or by hand, mix the honey and balsamic vinegar. Then, incorporate the chèvre, mixing until the texture is nice & creamy. Garnish with herbs if you've got 'em. We used a couple sprigs of fresh thyme.


WINTER SPICE CHÈVRE
1/8 tsp. ground clove
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
dash carrot juice (optional)
1 c. Lucky Penny Creamery Chèvre

Mix all of the spices together in a small bowl. Then, in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or by hand, combine the spice mixture with the chèvre. Once mixed, you may add a dash of carrot juice. Or don't. It helps with the creaminess, but isn't critical.

Enjoy!


—M

FARE WELL | AVGOLEMONO SOUP WITH PEARL BARLEY

 
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Good fare; heartsick farewells. Both have been woven into the quilt of our lives. In the last year, most of my time has been spent immersed in the former, respiting from the latter. Not so today. 

Today I drove Mark to the airport and said goodbye for several weeks as he traverses Irish pubs and Norwegian fjords. As I was winding my way down the parking garage on foot, trying to locate my car and not at all understanding how I walked out of the airport three floors above where I needed to be (probably all the crying), I felt pangs of sadness for the physical distance that will exist between us. It is in moments like those that I find it difficult to reconcile the juxtaposition of being both a homebody and a traveler.

The thread that binds that dichotomy is food. Fare. Be it preparing, serving, or being served, good food grounds us. This is a soup for when you are in need of grounding.

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squeezinglemon.jpg
standingmixer.jpg

In our several months in Greece, we never experienced Avgolemono. We ate more souvlaki than a reasonable person should (and let me go on record with saying it still wasn't enough). Daily were our walks to the bakery for koulourakia with orange blossom honey glaze. On many a hot afternoon we prepared the labor intensive moussaka, perfecting a recipe that any Greek would have argued was not as good as their own. But Avgolemono we did not have, though I wish we would've.

It is simple; thoughtless, really. The only skill it requires is a steady hand with the eggs. It is full of good, nourishing proteins and citrus for a weary body. It hails from the Greeks, a people whom I love, respect, and trust in the kitchen. Except for the lemon, all of the ingredients are local to Ohio and, more importantly, seasonally available year-round. 

All this to say, if you have a loved one in need of care-taking, make soup. Few things do a mind and body as well as soup.


Avgolemono Soup with Pearl Barley

4 c. bone broth or chicken stock
1 egg and 2 additional egg yolks
juice + zest of one lemon
1 c. pearl barley (could easily substitute orzo pasta or rice)
sea salt + cracked pepper

  1. Bring broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the barley and allow it to cook, 8-10 minutes.
  2. While the barley is cooking, in a mixing bowl whisk eggs, yolks, and the lemon zest and juice until foamy and well combined. 
  3. Slowly pour 1/2 c. of the broth into the egg/lemon mixture, whisking all the while. Heed the bit about pouring slowly. You don’t want to cook the eggs.
  4. Pour all contents into the soup, again pouring slowly and constantly stirring the soup.
  5. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to thicken for about 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Ladle the soup into bowls, and feel free to garnish with any number of garnish-y things: lemon zest, herbed chèvre, more cracked pepper, a bit of fresh parsley. If you’re sick like we both were, you’ll opt for none of those and dive straight into the soup.

—S