Lucky Spring

4leaf

Found this little guy in a patch of dark rich soil that had accumulated at the corner of the woodshed, in theory from years of sawdust and leaf mold and right in the spot where the badger knocked over the grill last summer. Maybe that was the tipping point. Ash and leaf and earth and dirt and dust become soil. It takes a while for the hard clay of this ground to turn into the kind of fertile anything that will encourage growth beyond wild asters, but, like most things, with the right combination of work and the fortune of circumstance small wonders can spring forth. Can you call it luck? I’m not sure what is more miraculous, that a tiny patch of delicate clover sprung from the nothing of a cool and shady previously inhospitable corner of my world, or that I noticed the little shoots yesterday in the midst of my big-doing-striding-purposefully-around the domain rehanging a broken clothesline and picking up the wreckage of winter… and that the tiny majesty stopped me in my tracks and I turned around to bend over the patch and take in its sweet small gentleness, and among them, there was this: a tiny four leafed clover. Good things are happening and good things are going to keep happening.

You look good, Manhattan

manhattanOh, New York, you beauty. Sometimes the city is a real kick in the guts, and sometimes it is a gilded wonder full of love, flower crowns, good music, old friends, and truffled egg toasts. Guess which one it is this week?

The Stars

photo 4My horoscope for this very snowy day, on which the paperwhites are (finally) blooming, the woodstove warms us, and my mama sits across from me sewing at the table:

You may be pushed to your limit, but you will take this in stride. Your trademark humor, faith, and talent will be your greatest asset.

Sent to me by the most marvelous Miss Rav, who is always on my team.

Get Out In It!

crabtreetrailSomeimes you just have to get out in it. Even it it’s chills bills and the woodstove is so cozy and you might just make yourself a ham sandwich with the seemingly endless linen satchel of Virginia ham that has been magically refilling itself since late November. THAT, in fact is EXACTLY when you need to get out in it. To the mountains, to the chill, to the frozen longest-waterfall-east-of-the-Mississippi in all its thundering glory, to the frost misted mosses and cantilevered rock faces of the world, full of wonder and ancient magics and secret caves and perhaps-hidden treasures and a few necessary vistas of destiny. And when it’s over, you can make yourself that ham sandwich.frozenwaterfallcrabtreemossicecicleslounginghikefaithwomanofdestiny2014.1.8FrozenWaterfall

Festive Nest

festivenestGet ready for the revelation: I really, really love Christmas. I love everything about it. The magic and light glow and mystery and anticipation and sweetness and memory and legend and quiet mornings and flannel nightgowns and music. Oh, the music. This year Mama was generous enough to give me/probably ecstatic to be rid of a classic old Case Logic box full of Christmas CD’s…an entire childhood of Christmas mornings, all the classics, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, (and mine-and-everyone-with-a-lick-of-sense’s fave) Vince Guaraldi, a crazy harp and dulcimer album that you can only buy on cassette now (but does have a few streaming mp3’s) and a few awesome new ones, like Hawaiian Slack Key Christmas and the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble. We also have a pretty decent selection of Christmas music on vinyl, The Nutcracker, some Colonial Williamsburg gems, and the piece de resistance: a Natural Mystic label Christmas Sampler that Sweetheart found on the street of our old Brooklyn neighborhood, which is awesome right out of the gate leading off the A-side with The Temptation’s incredible version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (“hey, Rudolph!”). Can you blame me if I’ve been ending every day since Thanksgiving with a glass of wine by my beautiful tree, with the lights low and Christmas music quietly streaming from the stereo? You know it’s getting close, though, when the Holiday spirit creeps out of cocktail hour onto your computer to serenade you whilst you work. So if you, like me, are just owning it and getting real with your Christmas Cheer, here are some choice streaming and downloadable festive tunes from around the web.CIS_frontThis incredible Christmas in Sweden album (downloadable!) from Anna over at Door Sixteen. It’s scratchy and poppy and full of Scandinavian joy.

The Oh Hellos Family Christmas (downloadable!) from Noisetrade.

aaand, the entirety of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (streamable, for now!) on Hulu.

If that doesn’t get you to cocktail hour, then there’s this: 48 minutes of jazzy-fabulous Christmas Joy.

Stay Merry, Stay Bright.

It takes guts

ittakesgutstobegentleandkindYesterday was my birthday. I spent gloriously long days celebrating with my dear ones, playing music, getting snowed in, having big candlelit dinners with Sweetheart’s homemade pasta, exploring the snowy woods and hiking upupup into the gusting mists off of breathtaking icy waterfalls, having surprise cakes baked for me, champagne delivered to me, fielding multiple phone calls from people singing to me, playing games, reading books, baking bread, having breakfast in bed, receiving small parcels of mulling spices, special ancient bottles of wine with Cyrillic labels, feather birds, and talking poetry and unicorns into the wee hours, and and and…like always, I almost can’t believe my good fortune to have these bold and brave, gentle and kind folk surrounding me. Another sweet year passed honestly and kindly, and celebrated well. And that takes guts.

The Ice Storm Cometh

iceberriesOur winter beekeepers meeting canceled, and Mama having left early in anticipation of its arrival, the ice storm blustered and blew and dripped and dropped and chilled and gusted and fogged and fell as I stayed nestled snug as a bug in my little old house, stoking the stove with wood fetched by Sweetheart before he left to go to the great north, and stowed, safe and dry on the covered porch for me, each trip outside to refill the rack that lives next to the old Jotul blowing in gusts of freezing wind to gutter the candles, the power flickering on and off every now and again, the radio crackling school closings, and the great everything spinning away out there in the cold wet dark and me cozy, safe, and dry under a quilt. In the morning, the world was covered in ice. A thin layer of it coating everything and bringing the branches of the trees down to kiss the ground, almost to breaking, but luckily still wick with Autumn’s sap, lithe and strong, and tiny icicles off of every roofline, the old birds nest I just discovered in the hedge, full of snow, it all already starting to melt in the morning’s quiet sun. But for a moment, a silent iceworld, holding its breath, waiting for turkish delight.

icetreesicenest icemeadowicehouse

Reading Lists

mckaylistYou know that you’ve gotten the right people together, that you’ve somehow collected all of the right and brightest stars into your orbit when they come together in your gravity and shine even brighter in each other’s presence. We had 19 for Thanksgiving dinner, and from my end of one long table across to the end of the other I could see McKay and Rav and Ann Marie in deep discussions, laughing together, and having found the old pad stolen from the Ace in Portland in my writing desk (which was open to provide a surface to display ham biscuits) and from their long standing positions as from-what-I-can-tell-the–most-brilliant-and-gorgeous-and-preeminent-scholars-in-their-fields curated reading lists for each other. How fortunate I am to have ladies like these in my life. And how fortunate I am to have had a few of these titles given to me by these very ladies. A gift of heartswell, indeed.

ravlist

To thanks…

mountainsTime flies when you’re having fun. And time also flies when it’s being blown along at a blustery clip accompanied by a 20 degree windchill. Thus this incredible week of my dreams begins. A whirlwind trip of wine and laces up to New York and back down to sweet, cold Virginny, where the leaves have been blown off the mountainsides and the hills look like brushed velvet somehow in the deep pile of their bare branches, and where 22 people are coming to our house for Thanksgiving. Today. It will the best possible time, one marked in between full moons on my almanac calendar, what seemed to be years away back in balmy September, and is now just here at the doorstep like an early guest and I feel like my hair is still in curlers. It’s what I’ve been waiting for…all of my favorite things- dancing in the kitchen, the noise of pots and pans and soul music and laughter and plenty of wine and dear friends aligned on the compasses of time and memory and family reunited-and-it-feels-so-good and pretty plates and feathers and, of course, about a million ham biscuits. And on this never-to-be-seen-again Thanksgivukkah, I’ve just got to say: infinite thanks and mazel tov, y’all. My heart is full.

Macarons

frenchmacaronsThese are French Macarons. That we made. From scratch. And no, not the coconutty pile of the macaroon (though those have, surprisingly, made their way into my heart via Sweetheart’s mama dipping them in chocolate around Passover … though now thinking about it THIS macaron is the perfect Passover dessert oh my yhwh) but no, not the macar-oon-, the macaron, the delicate almondine fluff and crisp sweet explosion of the world’s most perfect cookie (dare we even call it a cookie? a pastry… a delicacy… a mouth cloud of joy?). Heretofore known, really, only in Paris, coming wrapped in pistache green Ladurée boxes and tied with ribbons as if a simple parcel of macarons was as worthy of such trappings as a brace of jewels (they are). The macaron has always seemed to me like the soufflé or the perfectly poached egg or neuroscience: something probably best left to the experts. But! When one of those experts comes into your very home and pulls back the luster-dusted curtain and shows you the secrets and teaches you the wiles of measuring egg whites by the gram, well, then all of a sudden the macaron ceases to be one of life’s great mysteries and becomes a giddy joy of I can’t believe we’re actually making these and then the five of us are going to eat all. of. them. Almond, Lemon (with a slice of raspberry), Strawberry, and Coffee with Chocolate ganache. Oh my. macaronrecipe macaronpiping macaronbaking macaronpile macaroncloseup

Infinite thanks to resident-macaron-expert-and-sweetheart Miss Lucy (whose instagram is full of positively pornographic pastries, such as, ahem MACAR-OO-N BIRDSNESTS what the what!?) for walking us all through it step-by-step, Miss Maggie for constantly re-filling our coffee and deciding when it was time to switch to wine, Sweet Kitty for lugging her standing mixer (and being ever the perfect-and-slightly-doubtful-guest), and Mama for makin’ it all happen, always.

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