Tuesday Morning

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I got up early to write, but my words aren't ready for you guys yet. Maybe they're not ready for me yet. Or I'm not ready for them? 

After an hour of writing, I got back into bed and snoozed with my wife and then snuggled with the pup. The high is 90 today, and I'm lazing here under the sheet while I should be up showering and getting ready for work, letting Navah run around and put all the fans in the right windows to pull in as much cool air as possible after last night's rain. 

I'll be late for sure, but sometimes a Tuesday morning calls for extra snuggles. 

Project Pie: Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie (Whole Wheat + Vegan)

Project Pie: I'll be baking 24 pies before Pi Day 2016 to get over my fear of baking pies. And to eat delicious things. You can join me by posting about your pies in the comments or tagging your twitter, instagram, or facebook posts with #projectpie. Make something scrumptious and gooey!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie sounds like the perfect dessert for a Southern luncheon on a summer afternoon, but I didn't have a slice until I was an adult living in New England. I'm not sure I'd ever even heard of rhubarb before a few years ago. 

The notion that this reddish, greenish stalk that looks a lot like celery can, when mixed with sugar, turn into a deliciously sweet confection is a bit magical to me. And when I decided to bake 24 pies, there was absolutely no question that a strawberry rhubarb would be in the mix. 

We haven't grown rhubarb in the garden because apparently it takes over everything, but I do think it would be a good problem to have - Ugh. I have sooo. much. rhubarb. I guess I'll have to make ANOTHER batch of rhubarb jam.  Damn.

You see what I'm saying? 

Instead, I hunted rhubarb this year like a hungry animal, asking everyone I saw with a rhubarb-based treat where they'd gotten theirs. Person after person told me it was from their garden, and it was all gone. I despaired that perhaps there would be no strawberry rhubarb pie for me. 

And then a couple weeks ago my wife called from the co-op and told me there was rhubarb - should she get some? Oh, I despaired. I was leaving for BlogHer in New York that week and wouldn't have time to bake a pie. But would it last while I was gone? Buying rhubarb and having it go bad in my refrigerator would be deeply depressing. I took a gamble and told her not to buy any, hoping there would still be rhubarb at the store when I returned. 

And glory of glories, there was. 

I even have a little left over. Ugh. So much rhubarb. I guess I'll have to make a little rhubarb compote this week. 

Darn.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie (Whole Wheat)
Adapted from Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Crust

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold Earth Balance (or other non-dairy butter)
1/4 cup shortening, room temperature
1/4 cup ice water

1. Quickly mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. 
2. Break the shortening into large chunks and cut your butter (from the freezer) into small pieces. Add the butter and shortening to the flour mixture. Cut it into the dry ingredients by chopping vigorously with a pastry blender or cutting it with two knives. Work quickly so the butter does not melt. Make sure you are getting all the flour off the bottom of the bowl. Stop when the mixture has some pea-sized pieces and is mostly a consistency of dry, coarse crumbs, like cornmeal. 
3. Drizzle the ice water over the top. Using the blade side of a rubber spatula, cut into the mixture until it is evenly moistened and small balls begin to form. If balls of dough stick together, you're done. If they don't, drizzle 1-2 more tablespoons of water over the top. 
4. Press the dough together until it forms a ball. It should be rough, not smooth. Press into a flat, round disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can refrigerate for up to several days. 

Filling

3-4 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3-4 cups strawberries, halved
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or sub cane sugar)
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons Earth Balance (or sub butter), cut into small chunks

1. Mix together the sugar and flour and set aside. 
2. Mix together the rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, and Earth Balance and set aside.

Crumb Topping

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar (or sub brown sugar)
1/4 cup Earth Balance (or sub butter), melted

1. Mix flour, sugar, and Earth Balance together until crumbly. 

Putting it Together:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, beginning in the center and rolling out from all directions. Roll the dough about 3-4 inches wider than your pie pan.
3. Transfer the dough into your pie pan by rolling it loosely around your rolling pin and then unrolling it into the pie pan. Press the dough over the bottom and into the corners of your pan. Trim the edges of the dough, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang, and then tuck that overhang underneath itself.  
4. Sprinkle the crust with about 1 tablespoon of the sugar and flour mixture.
5. Mix the remaining sugar and flour mixture with the strawberry rhubarb mixture and pour into the pie crust. 
6. Top with the crumble mixture, and place the pie pan on a large baking sheet and into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
7. Let cool for 10-15 minutes on a rack. Slice and enjoy.

 p.s. Remember my strawberry basil pie? Yum. 

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This Week in My Garden: July 23, 2015

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The weeds are out of control. I need to spend an hour in there this weekend pulling up ten thousand grass shoots. I pick new cabbage worms off the brussels sprouts every day. There are now Japanese Beetles on the green bean plants, just like last year. The delicata squash looks like it's not going to produce.

But there are four baby pattypan squash, and we picked 5 cherry tomatoes yesterday. 

So, #gardenlove.

These Days: July

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basking in the lasting glow of my days at BlogHer
chowing down on refrigerator sugar snap pickles
wishing the summer would never end
failing miserably at meal planning
listening to The Name of the Wind on audiobook (for 27 hours!)
looking forward to a new knitting project
trying to catch up on weeding the garden
spending extra time outside whenever I can
loving late night conversations with my wife
rejoicing that I get to see my sister two weekends in a row
ruminating on what type of pie I should bake next
making an effort to take a long walk every day
calling friends for long chats
practicing gratitude

p.s. These Days: May

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Re-entry

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I turned off my alarm this morning for the first time in months, at least for the first time when I hadn't prepared a post the night before.  

I heard the little chirping crickets sound, and my only thought was No. I swiped the screen and fell immediately back asleep.  

The tiredness is unsurprising, but you would think that after a weekend of talking blogging and writing and the power of online media, I'd be leaping out of bed to share my voice with the world.  

And yet.  

The BlogHer Conference was deeply inspiring, and the energy in every room was powerful enough to need its own registration. I told my therapist that being in the audience, listening to the keynote speakers and the Voices of the Year readers and videos and open mic participants, felt like a cross between the most loving church and the U.S. Women's World Cup game. We were there to cheer. We were there to be moved. We were hungry for it. 

I had tears in my eyes more moments than I can count. A couple times they spilled over. Once, when someone's words were too true and too beautiful and too painful, I had to head to a bathroom. As I stood with my back against the stall, silently sobbing, I heard the door open and the sound of a woman choking back tears. I opened the latch and peeked out. I didn't know her, but our red-rimmed eyes met and we hugged each other and held on while we wiped our wet faces. 

In her interview up on the BlogHer stage, Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma, spoke of her evenings hanging out with fancy people (aka Oprah, etc) as going to Disneyland. It's amazing and magical, but when you come home, she said, there's a big pile of laundry and you still have to get up and go to work the next day. 

I spent a weekend in community with the most diverse, empathic, and empowering group of women I've experienced. It woke a craving. Or at least helped me put a name to it.

And I came home to a life that is lovely in so many ways but not quite Disneyland. 

I want to keep it alive, but I don't quite know what that looks like amid the work days and the dog walks and the laundry. I know I can't wait until next year. I'm hungry now.  

I'm hungry for the person I am when I'm open to all that community and connection, when my heart is full and ready to give.

I hope I brought that girl home. 

 

p.s. A very different experience from three years ago for me.

 

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BlogHer 15: The Shortest Recap Ever

I have to apologize, you guys. I was blog conferencing so hard I forgot to think about actual blogging. I didn't knit you a sweater or bake you a pie or even think of anything remotely profound to say. 

All I've got is this: You know how I said I wasn't going to make friends at BlogHer 15

Well, no one's right all the time. 

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(But for those of you who didn't really make friends, you're okay! The only reason I did is because one incredibly warm and caring woman took me under her wing, and I'm calling her a forever friend whether she likes it or not! I'll be paying it forward next year.)

This Week in My Garden: July 16, 2015

This is the year. This is the year we're going to get actual red tomatoes. We already have 2 ripe cherry tomatoes, and those slicers are well on their way! The two previous years we've been here, I've ended the season with pounds of green tomatoes. I do love fried green tomatoes and a good green tomato salsa, but the point is to make actual RED tomatoes that we can eat fresh. And this is the year.

Perhaps this it how it will go. Each year we'll have one vegetable that does really well. Last year it was sugar snap peas. This year our sugar snaps were a bit of a bomb. The year before that it was cucumbers, which last year were pretty disappointing and seem to be heading that way again. I would hope that eventually I'll figure things out so I can have a bang-up crop multiple years in a row. But no luck on that front yet. 

We're finally getting little fruits on our delicata and pattypan squash plants. There aren't that many, but I'm crossing my fingers they'll make it. For some reason, growing actual pattypan squash feels like it would be the coolest thing ever since they look to me like something that couldn't actually come from nature. 

I've let the weeds take over a bit since I've been so busy keeping the rabbits away and murdering slugs and now cabbage worms. I hate to kill these guys. They're such a pretty shade of green, and their little bodies remind me of the caterpillars I  collected when I was a kid. But, like with the slugs, I really have no choice when they're eating the crap out of my brussels sprouts.

And I just saw a few Japanese beetles on the green beans, which I have absolutely no problem killing because they disgust me. Last year, I waged an all-out war against them. 

I'm not giving up on the cucumbers entirely yet, but I think the zucchini, the eggplant, and the cantaloupe  are likely goners. And there's some new white patchy stuff on the sugar snap peas, which I remember from last year. Anybody know if this is just something that happens at the end of the plant's life? 

What's going on in your garden? 

p.s. A peak back at the beginning.

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What Is Your X?

I met Caitlin at a gigantic fabric store in Maryland, just outside DC. She was working behind the desk, cutting the right length off those big bolts, and I was deciding on a bundle of fat quarters for an upcoming quilting class - my first. 

In an uncharacteristically outgoing moment, I brought a few fat quarter bundles up to the counter and asked for her opinion. As we got to chatting about the various patterns and what I was making, we discovered we were registered for the same class. 

She had already made a few simple quilts and sold some cross-stitched pieces on Etsy, and she told me right then that she wanted to sew and own her own fabric shop one day. I remember thinking at the time, Wow. That's what she wants, so she's working in a fabric store. Smart. 

It's stupidly simple - almost. Sure, it makes sense to do things that will move you toward what you want. But I've always been deeply envious of people who know what they want. Or, maybe more accurately, people who can tap into a place of honesty about what they want and then go for it. 

For  as long as I can remember, I've wanted a zillion different things and, sometimes more than I wanted the things themselves, I've wanted affirmation that the things I want are the right things to want, the smart things to want. I've wanted them to be things I could be sure of, which can mean never getting to the threshold question - what do I want? 

Caitlin and I crafted together a few times, and then she got a job at Spoonflower and moved down to North Carolina and we eventually lost touch. 

She's begun popping up in my Instagram feed again recently with these incredibly beautiful quilts, so I headed over to her blog to see more. And lo and behold, she's selling her gorgeous quilts and her fabric on Etsy and at craft shows. 

She's doing it. In 2010, she told me she wanted to make quilts and sell fabric. And she is. I don't know what the rest of her life looks like, but I'm struck by the seemingly simple nature of the formula. You want to do X? Put down everything else, and start doing X. If you can't do X yet, work for someone who does X. Surround yourself with X. Eventually, you will do X. 

And I'm struck by how incomprehensible that formula seems to me. I want to become an actor? I watch a lot of television and learn to crochet. I want to become a teacher? I go to law school. I want to do public interest law? I go to work at a big firm. I want to become awesome at photography? I learn to knit. I want to focus my time on becoming a better writer? I take on more responsibility at work. 

Of course, we know all about hindsight, but looking back on all these decisions feels a little like watching a tiny mouse version of myself running through a maze but constantly going the wrong way, like I'm standing there, shouting incredulously from outside the box Hey! What are you doing?! The cheese is THAT WAY!!

I don't know what the answer is here. I don't know if there is an answer. 

I have a lot of interests. I always have, and I'd say that my task here is to just accept that as who I am - a person with a zillion hobbies and no expertise. Except that there's something deeper underneath. There are longings and desires that I think I keep hidden even from myself most of the time. I have the sense often that I'm standing in my own way, but I don't know which direction to move. Or how.

And fear. There is so much fear - often masquerading as confusion or overwhelm. 

Comparison is a tricky game - it's not that I'm trying to look at one person's success and ask why I'm not there. But I am trying to ask myself what is your X?  Really, seriously, right now. What is your X? 

p.s. I wrote basically this same post three years ago. Oy. 

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BlogHer 15: I'm Not Here to Make Friends

Me and a couple other fabulous ladies on a small blogger panel at BlogHer 12

Me and a couple other fabulous ladies on a small blogger panel at BlogHer 12

In two days I'll drive down to New York for the BlogHer Conference, that annual extravaganza where a small town's worth of bloggers (most women) descend on a hotel for a few nights of non-stop schmoozing, partying, and talking shop. 

Or panicking, looking around awkwardly, and hiding in corners. 

To each her own, right?

Okay, so my title was a bit much. I'm not on a reality television show, I'm not here to "win it," and I'm not anti-social (at least not on purpose). I paid good money to spend 48 hours with these thousands of women, and I've been looking forward to it for months. I want to have an awesome time and meet lots of fun new people. But the closer I get, the louder my inner middle schooler gets. Will they like me? Who will I sit with at lunch? What if I'm dressed wrong? What if someone notices I've gained weight? (a sign that things have really derailed, but one of my mind's favorite completely irrelevant things to throw into any 'ol insecurity fest) How can I be here when I took over a year off blogging? How can I talk to these REAL bloggers? Who do I think I am?

There is no lack of information online about how to "do" blogging conferences, and especially this one, as an introvert or an anxious person. Take things at your own pace. Go back to your room to recharge. Let your business cards talk for you. Remember to just have fun.

And they're all good points. Many of these articles end with the author sharing how they overcame their overwhelm, discovered their tribe, and went home with the best friends of their life, whom they've reconnected with every year at the conference. 

Here's the problem: I went to BlogHer. Back in 2012. I read all those articles in preparation, and I was ready for transformation and serious best-friend-making. There were some awesome parts of the trip. But I spent a lot of time standing around feeling awkward. I didn't know what to talk to people about. Or I did - blogging. But I still felt 12 years old and shy and like I didn't belong. I didn't come home with new friends, let alone a best friend. Sure, I left with some new twitter accounts to follow and some new folks I super-duper admired and mildly stalked, but no one that I maintained a real friendship with. 

And I'm a friendly person. But I couldn't relax. I felt the whole time like I was on overdrive. Afterwards I couldn't figure out how to keep any of the smaller connections going. I commented on some people's blogs. They commented on mine. But eventually the connection wore thin. Those that kept a thread at all seemed more like bloggy acquaintances. I've admitted I'm not that great at online friendships anyway

I felt overwhelmed and like a failure. What had I done wrong?

I noticed the BlogHer Conference emails and the twitter posts the next few years, but I pushed away any desire I felt to go by remembering that feeling of failure.  

This year I wanted to go back. It's been three years, and I feel newly recommitted to blogging. There are things I want to learn about and improve. I want to hear from experts, and I want to talk to some brands, and yes, I want to say Hi to a few people I read on the web. 

And what has occurred to me is this: maybe the BlogHer Conference is just that - a conference. It's not where I'll meet my best friend (I already have some awesome ones). It's not where I'll discover my true home (I have a great one). It's not where I'll finally feel like I can be myself (I'm learning to do that over and over everyday, everywhere). 

My expectations were all out of whack. 

It's so awesome that there are people who go to BlogHer and find their perfect place, who party until they can't stand up anymore, who meet their friendship soul mates. Maybe this year I'll surprise myself and become one of them. But I don't think so. 

No, BlogHer is where I will learn more about being a good writer and crafting interesting headlines and engaging my readers. It's where I'll figure out what's really involved in "partnering" with a brand. It's where I will meet other bloggers and talk about creativity and finding time to show up and developing an online presence. It's where I'll become inspired my hearing the truly exceptional words of authors I admire. It's where I will focus on the skills to help me become better at this thing I love. 

I have no doubt I'll meet some freaking awesome folks in between.

But as for making fabulous life-long friends and having the best weekend of my life? 

I'm letting my 12-year old self off the hook on that one. 

p.s. I did get to pretend to be a Rockette, which made my 12-year old self very happy.

 

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24-Hour Refrigerator Pickled Sugar Snap Peas

The sugar snap peas in our garden are growing like weeds, which is saying something because the weeds are a little bit out of control over here. 

I was feeling so excited and proud of myself for deciding to plant an entire bed of that candy-like vegetable. 

Until I ate one. 

They're not good! I mean, they're edible. But the shell is tough, almost like they're shelling peas instead of sugar snaps. But I checked the package of seeds, and they are most definitely Sugar Daddy Snap Peas, meant to be eaten whole. 

We're getting peas from our farm share right now as well, and the difference is extreme. When I bite into a farm share sugar snap, it's crisp and juicy. When I bite into one of ours? Well, first off, they feel hard and almost hollow, and then when I take a bite, it's like that first time I ate edamame - when I thought you ate the whole thing and had to suffer through chewing that fibrous shell. Oh, and they're definitely ready to be picked - it's not an issue of picking too soon.

The only thing I can imagine is that the Burpee seeds (from their organic line) we got this year (as opposed to the High Mowing seeds last year) were just not very good. 

Insert huge sad face.  

I was - still am - feeling super disappointed about it, but I had come across Natalie Freeman's recipe for refrigerator pickled sugar snap peas some time before and been intrigued. I thought I'd try it out and see if it made the peas more edible. 

So this weekend, I picked a whole heap of them, made the brine from salt, vinegar, and honey, poured it over the trimmed peas and a little garlic and red pepper flakes, and put them in the refrigerator to do their thing.

I almost couldn't wait the 24 hours. But when I took them out the next day...

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Success! 

They're delicious! I want to pickle everything! Refrigerator pickling is so fast and easy, and I'm going to have a lifelong devotion to Natalie for showing me that I can use honey in place of refined sugar with great results. 

It didn't 100% fix the peas - there is still a little toughness in them. But they'll continue to soften in the brine, and this way they're at least easier to chew! And they have a great flavor. 

I'll definitely be making more batches as I pick the rest, and I'm going to start thinking about what else I can pickle. 

Check out Natalie's recipe, and let me know if you try it!

 

p.s. Try this simple tomato and hearts of palm salad this week.

 

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Friday Photo Gratitude

Stealing a bit from Soulemama's weekly {this moment}, I will be posting a single photo, no words, every Friday as a practice of gratitude - for the simple and extraordinary pleasures of life, for the ability to capture them with my camera, and for the honor of sharing them with you. 

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Vermont Route 100 Scenic Tour

Route 100 is a two lane highway that runs north-south almost the entire length of the state of Vermont - 217 miles. While it is a necessary road for many to get from here to there, it's also quite popular with tourists because it winds through beautiful farm land, quaint little New England towns, and our beautiful Green Mountains. 

Loving a good car trip, my wife and I spent one full day of our staycation driving the 80 miles of Route 100 from Waterbury, VT to Ludlow, VT. Though we've both traveled the portions of the road closest to the Burlington area, neither of us had been this far south in that part of the state. We made our way slowly down, spending not more than 15 or 20 minutes in the car on any given stretch. There were so many things to see and do (and photograph). We were constantly pulling over to check out a general store (we stopped at every one), walk around the town green of an adorable community (I fell in love with Rochester, VT), take in a waterfall, or visit an interesting shop. And of course I'm a huge lover of barns, so I pulled us over on the side of the road many a time to hop out and snap a few shots of one of the many beautiful structures. 

We stayed over night at a historic inn on Echo Lake right outside Ludlow, VT, an area that used to be a popular vacation destination for fancy folks (perhaps still is). I made a vow to come back to Echo Lake for a relaxing week one day - there were tons of people out on the Camp Plymouth State Park beach and kayaking around, and it looked like the most fun. The next day we visited President Calvin Coolidge's birthplace and family homestead. Neither of us knew much about him, and it was an enjoyable introduction to his life as well as an opportunity to walk through an area preserved (and sometimes replicated) as a super tiny 1920s village. I love that kind of thing. I was especially pumped to see the quilt that Coolidge made for his own bed as a boy and the short-term exhibit of Grace Coolidge's clothes (spoiler alert: they're gorgeous). And of course Navah spent some of the time on our trip home (not on Route 100) on Wikipedia sharing other interesting facts about him and his presidency with me. 

If you decide to travel this stretch of Route 100 (which I recommend), here are some things I would suggest: stopping to snap some pictures of Moss Glen Falls, grabbing a sandwich at the Warren Store or the Pittsfield General Store, veering off the road just a bit to take the very short hike to Thundering Falls, pulling over to admire beautiful old barns and homes, getting out of the car in Rochester to take a walk around and get some coffee and a baked treat from Sandy's Books & Bakery, spending an hour or two at the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site, and (if you can) strapping a kayak or a canoe to the top of your car and checking out Echo Lake

We'll have to save that last bit for next time (when we'll own a kayak?). 

Now that we've done that gorgeous trip, I'm super motivated to drive the rest of Route 100 - north of us and also the last southern bits that we didn't get to. In fact, I'm ready for another staycation, but it will probably have to wait until next year!

p.s. I'll be back with my regular Thursday garden posts next week. This post was delayed a bit because of technical difficulties yesterday!

 

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Quarterly Book Report: July 2015

These last three months were tough for reading, in part because I got stuck on a couple books that I still haven't finished and in part because garden season began. Sadly, I finished only three books since March, though I'm partially through a few others. And the ones I did complete - all audiobooks. Sigh. 

Do you do that? Get stuck on a book? I'll get a little bit bossy with myself  - "You can start that book after you finish this one, but not any sooner!" - as if I'm in need of strict parenting about my leisure reading habits. And I'm desperate for a good escapist novel, so I've got to either make it through these books or let it go! 

For now, here's what I "read" April - June. 

I Can't Complain: (all too) personal essays*
Elinor Lipman

"Perhaps I live in an overly frank family. My husband has an expression that I call 'evaluative.' His features rearrange themselves into something that is part squint, part frown, a look I've seen on the faces of judges at the Westminster Dog Show. Occasionally he undergoes a moment of delicacy before blurting out what the offense is, but most often he diagnoses and prescribes without much soul-searching. My son will say, 'Ma? You're not planning to wear those pants outside the house, are you?' Not now, I won't."

It took me a couple of essays to get into this simple little collection by Elinor Lipman, with some of the early essays in the collection feeling a bit dated (they're reprinted from pieces she's written throughout her career). But by the end, I was completely in love and wanted to take her out to lunch. Her witty and matter-of-fact take on culture, marriage, and friendship were refreshing and often had me laughing out loud. And on a couple rare occasions, I was wiping back tears. When it ended, I missed her. 

Bad Feminist*
Roxanne Gay

"We need to stop playing Privilege or Oppression Olympics because we'll never get anywhere until we find more effective ways of talking through difference. We should be able to say, 'This is my truth,' and have that truth stand without a hundred clamoring voices shouting, giving the impression that multiple truths cannot exist."

I had a love-hate relationship with Gay's book of essays on feminism and her relationship to it. For starters, I went in with the wrong expectations. The title and a few things I'd read about the book gave me the impression that I'd be cozying up to another How to Be a Woman - a funny take on the journey of being a modern-day feminist. But she actually takes books like that to task for demanding that feminism always be funny in order to be swallowed. There are some amusing moments in Bad Feminist, but it is, for the most part, a very serious book about serious issues. Many of the essays are lengthy academic pieces of literary criticism, and in many I found myself zoning out a bit (not the fault of the book but of my atrophied lit crit muscles). I liked best the pieces where she delved into her own personal experiences. I'm glad I read the collection because it gave me insight I wouldn't otherwise have - into the life of a black female academic grappling with her place in the world and our society's handling of race and gender from that perspective. I found myself arguing with her often, which I think told me as much (or more) about myself as it did about her. 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette*
Maria Semple

"Those East Coast kids are a different breed, on a fast track to nowhere. Your friends in Seattle are Canadian in their niceness. None of you has a cell phone. The girls wear hoodies and big cotton underpants and walk around with tangled hair and smiling, adorned backpacks. Do you know how absolutely exotic it is that you haven't been corrupted by fashion and pop culture? A month ago I mentioned Ben Stiller, and do you know how you responded? 'Who's that?' I loved you all over again."

I read a ton of great reviews of this one from some of my favorite bloggers, and I was prepared to really love this quirky novel about a teenage girl's search for her mom who suddenly goes missing from their Seattle home. While it kept my interest, I wasn't head over heels. The writing and the characters were fun and unique, but I was bugged by some character choices that seemed not understandable or believable to me. Each person in the book behaved at times in ways that were incomprehensible but were not really addressed by others in the book, something that is arguably not a flaw but bothered me nonetheless. On the other hand, I adored the epistolary style and the frame of the main character's detective work. The book is told from the viewpoint of Bee Branch, a 15-year old girl, and all information is revealed through the documents (most emails and letters) she is combing through on the search for her mother. It was original, and it totally worked.

*Listened on Audible

p.s. April's Quarterly Book Report

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Whole Wheat Zucchini Potato Pie

Project Pie: I'll be baking 24 pies before Pi Day 2016 to get over my fear of baking pies. And to eat delicious things. You can join me by posting about your pies in the comments or tagging your twitter, instagram, or facebook posts with #projectpie. Make something scrumptious and gooey!

This recipe needs a disclaimer. Once you take a bite of this pie, you will not want to stop. And you will not want to eat anything else. Only this pie, with its flaky crust and its soft, perfectly seasoned filling. Forever and ever, amen. 

You've been warned. 

Thank heavens for the potatoes we've been getting from our farm share, stored over the winter and giving a little substance to those first few weeks when it's largely greens. And now the zucchini is rolling in, and there is absolutely no better use for the two of them - the buttery potatoes and the summery zucchini - than in this pie. 

I'll be honest and tell you that I fought hard with this crust. There was some swearing. I used the Joy of Cooking recipe from my blueberry pie but adapted it for our standard dietary needs - aka, Earth Balance instead of butter and whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose. I didn't change the water content, which resulted in a sticky dough that gave me all sorts of problems when I was rolling it out. Lesson learned.

I said a prayer and shoved it in the oven. 

And boy, did I sing praises when I took that first bite. Wow. The crust pulled through and the flavors of the vegetables and the garlic and the sour cream melded together perfectly.  And let's talk about sour cream for a moment. If you'll remember, my wife is intensely lactose intolerant. Sour cream has only graced our kitchen in rare moments when I really wanted it for something specific only I would be eating - until recently when we discovered that our favorite lactose-free yogurt provider was also making sour cream. A huge thank you to Green Valley Organics for bringing sour cream into our lives and making this deliciousness possible. 

I fear I'm going on too much about this one, but I can't hide the way I feel. This pie is my soul mate. 

Whole Wheat Zucchini Potato Pie
Adapted from The New York Times

Crust:

2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons cold Earth Balance (or other non-dairy butter)
1/2 cup shortening, room temperature
1/2 cup ice water

1. Quickly mix the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. 
2. Break the shortening into large chunks and cut your butter (from the freezer) into small pieces. Add the butter and shortening to the flour mixture. Cut it into the dry ingredients by chopping vigorously with a pastry blender or cutting it with two knives. Work quickly so the butter does not melt. Make sure you are getting all the flour off the bottom of the bowl. Stop when the mixture has some pea-sized pieces and is mostly a consistency of dry, coarse crumbs, like cornmeal. 
3. Drizzle the ice water over the top. Using the blade side of a rubber spatula, cut into the mixture until it is evenly moistened and small balls begin to form. If balls of dough stick together, you're done. If they don't, drizzle 1-2 more tablespoons of water over the top. 
4. Press the dough together until it forms a ball. It should be rough, not smooth. Divide the dough in half and press each into a flat, round disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can refrigerate for up to several days. 

Zucchini and Potato Filling:

1 pound yellow-fleshed potatoes
1 large zucchini
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of nutmeg

1. Thinly slice the potatoes and zucchini into discs. (I used a mandolin slicer.)
2. Place into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix gently and thoroughly until all the potato and zucchini slices are covered. 

Putting it Together:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 
2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, beginning in the center and rolling out from all directions. Roll the dough about 3-4 inches wider than your pie pan.
3. Transfer the dough into your pie pan by rolling it loosely around your rolling pin and then unrolling it into the pie pan. Press the dough over the bottom and into the corners of your pan. Trim the edges of the dough, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang, and then tuck that overhang underneath itself.  
4. Put the bottom crust into the refrigerator (preferably for at least 30 minutes). Roll out the top crust in the same way, though a little smaller. Pour your filling into the bottom crust (you can layer all the slices nicely and neatly, but I just poured the filling in distributed everything evenly) and top with the top crust. Cut steam vents in the middle. Crimp the rim with a fork or make a decorative edge. 
5. Place the pie pan on a large baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes.
6. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake 50-60 minutes more until the top is golden. 
7. Let cool for 5-10 minutes on a rack, then slice and enjoy.

p.s. These cornmeal and rye whole grain waffles are my waffle soul mate.

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Friday Photo Gratitude

I will be on vacation next week, so ktmade will be quiet. But I'll be back July 6th! 

Stealing a bit from Soulemama's weekly {this moment}, I will be posting a single photo, no words, every Friday as a practice of gratitude - for the simple and extraordinary pleasures of life, for the ability to capture them with my camera, and for the honor of sharing them with you. 

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This Week in My Garden: June 25, 2015

My hosta wrote me a love letter. I gasped out loud when I saw the flowers, totally unexpected on my morning walk a couple days ago. I walk straight through the yard these days, rather than up the driveway and onto the street, so that I can quickly peruse the garden and then check on the blueberries and raspberries before we head out. I almost passed right by the hosta without noticing because I was looking to the right, worrying over my zucchini. 

Thank goodness I turned my head. A well-timed flower sighting can make my day. 

The garden is a little weird right now, with some things growing beautifully and others suffering for reasons I can't figure out. 

On the positive side: My hosta, of course. The sugar snap peas are flowering. There are tomatoes on almost every one of my tomato plants. That has never happened by this time of the year, and I am delighted. My green beans are making slow and steady progress. The pattypan and delicata squash seem happy as can be. Aside from being chomped by bunnies, several of the brussels sprouts are looking big and luscious. I'm harvesting a few radishes every few days.

On the negative side: The zucchini and cucumbers are just....sad looking. Some of the leaves are turning brown and some of them have a sort of speckled appearance, almost like they just couldn't get quite green enough. My eggplant and spinach are growing so slowly. The eggplant has only made a few new leaves since I put them in the ground over a month ago, and the spinach still look like small sprouts even though it's been at least two weeks. The radishes are very, very tiny. Also, should I be worried about these yellowing leaves at the bottom of a few tomato plants? And how did I end up with so many little rocks in my soil?

Always a learning experience. I haven't gotten as much time out there in the last couple weeks, and I miss my lazy weeding. Here's hoping I can add a little more garden time in the coming days. 


p.s. Our garden, two years ago this week.

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