Summer Joy: Gardenias

You know you are in a good place when it is time to go to sleep and someone has put a gardenia next to your bed. Just one, in the tiniest bit of water, depression glass or old fiestaware. You know it’s a marvelous confluence of events that has led you to lay your head down in a place where June is warm enough for blooms and the sheets are still cool to the touch.

Petit Herbs Garden

Ahh, New York. Would that we could have an acre out back for straw bale tomatoes, climbing cucumbers and whatever other delectable treats we could imagine. It’s all we can do to put a few simple herbs out on the front stoop now that summer has officially arrived. I stopped by the Union Square farmers market this week and picked up the bare essentials: basils, rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley. After a week of squalls today was the perfect day to plant them! Now, what should we have for dinner?

Summer Joy: Cucumber Sandwiches

Today I had one of the summer’s most marvelous delicate treats: the cucumber sandwich. When I was little Mama and I grew cucumbers and tomatoes in half barrels down the length of our driveway. I loved the curlicue tendrils that got so grabby and brushing off the little white thorns that grew from the bumps when they were ready to pick. Mama would have a tomato sandwich and me– always the cucumber. Nothing has changed.

I go white bread, crust on, no toast, Duke’s mayonnaise on both sides (sometimes I have to bring this special from Virginia, other times they randomly/awesomely have it at Fairway), salt, pepper, and chips. This is probably the only sandwich in the world (outside of PB&J) that doesn’t agree with a pickle. After all, a pickle is just a cucumber that sold its soul to the Devil. And the Devil was Dill.

Happy Birthday Puddenhaid!


Today is Andrew’s birthday. So I made him these cupcakes. He makes me all kinds of things: dinners and breakfasts and stories and crossword puzzles and laughs and books and adventures and makes sure I’m safe and happy and surrounded by music. He’s my guy and I think he’s pretty much the best.

Happy Father’s Day.

Oh happy day and thank you, Daddy, for teaching me how to drive a boat and tie the easy necessary knots and catch crabs with chicken necks and be safe (above all!) on water and land, to drive a little longer distance to get a coke in a glass bottle and make that extra distance be the special part, to go down isthmuses of land only known at low tide (and then how to back up at high speeds to get the hell out of there), to borrow Christmas Trees with a Flatt and Scruggs soundtrack, to sing, always, and always in harmony, that music needs to “get you off!”, how to do the nitty gritty: drive stick shift, shoot guns, change tires, jump cars, gut fish, set up the stereo just right, change the strings, make the grilled cheese, know the tides and how to catch the waves, get backstage and be cool, and the big stuff: how to measure happiness and time in terms of action, how to lose parts of yourself and come out the other side, what a marriage and a life should and can be, the absolute power of unrelenting positivity, that life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death, and, of course, always be master of your own destiny.

Wearing Fresh Flowers

I went home to Virginia last weekend for a dear friend’s wedding and to deliver my mother some Ramps and Sunchokes from the Union Square farmers market (I’ve been obsessed with this pairing for the past three weeks and can’t believe that there are still ramps available- I read this my first spring living in New York and have made the yearly appearance of ramps at the market a New-York-specific-ritual for myself… but I digress).

I was getting ready to go to this wedding with my mama in what, now that I try to put it into words for the first time, is not just a bathroom but a full on dressing room with a chaise lounge (I have not realized the import of this until this second- I have always just called it “Mama’s bathroom”… well it does have a tub). Getting ready and being in here is always awesome, since I was little snooping around in her stuff has always been the best.thing.ever- the only difference is that now, if I am very nice, she will actually let me wear some of her jewelry.

So, my father comes in and we’re just lounging around looking at old photographs and talking about hair-stuff and he hands me a tiny parcel with this inside:

Immediately the stories come out- first thing you need to know: we are from Williamsburg, Virginia, as in Colonial Williamsburg. So, when my father was a small boy he and his two brothers went down to the CW silversmith and picked out this brooch for my grandmother for Mother’s Day. My grandmother is an amazing lady, a horticulturist and philanthropist, a mover and a shaker, and the grandest possessor of hats, scarves, and jewels I have ever had the good fortune to meet. She, at some point, loses this brooch and secretly goes and replaces it without telling her sons. Then FIFTEEN years later she finds it again out in the garden by the woodpile (because, of course, she’s the kind of lady to wear fancy jewelry out by the woodpile). By this time, my parents are married and now Gramma has two brooches- so she gives the replacement pin to my mother. By this time in the conversation, my mother has pulled hers out. Apparently, they don’t make them anymore, but Daddy has found one somewhere (perhaps out by the woodpile) and thinks that since Gramma and Mama both have them, Nan should too. How divinely amazing!!

As you can see, I filled my tiny vase-pin with water, went right out and cut a peony from the garden, and went along to the nuptials feeling fine, like a classic Virginia lady (albeit in an Abigail Lorick dress), and most importantly- very loved.

Here are some modern options (if you don’t have a southern woodpile that keeps birthing brooches on the world):

Brass boutinier pins from calliopevintage
This is made from the handle of a knife from an old silver pattern from thefashionedge
Glass pin from the Opulent Poppy


Old Fashioned Natural Dye Easter Eggs

My Dear Charlotte's Eggs

Oh My. I’ve written about dyeing easter eggs with natural dyes and plant reliefs before (onion skins make a sepia brown egg, lily stamens make bright yellow, beets make purple) and today, Easter Sunday, I received pictures from three friends (!) who made beautiful eggs using this old post. They are so lovely and classic in a way that feels simple and right– like seersucker and fresh cut grass or scratchy old vinyl music and twilight– that I thought I should re-post the instructions to pay it forward:

My mother collects bird-nests. By now she has dozens of them, and each one has a story… ‘this one with the auburn gold hair woven in is from Sally’s Valley, the hair came from Cayman, their Golden Retriever… this tiny one is from the barn at the farmhouse in Toano where you were born… this one with the beads of amber is from two Christmas trees ago, remember when we found it there in the branches?’ Her favorite nest, a delicate little number thatched with horse-hair and poets laurel, sat on a bow-front chest in her bathroom, and held three sepia-colored eggs blown hollow and covered with gossamer photo-negative outlines of tiny ferns, clovers, and gingko leaves.

Spurred into memory by the recent changes in the weather towards the warm and supple breezes of spring (and the sudden appearance of the hollow-chocolate-rabbit Easter tableaux manifesting themselves across New York), I decided to make myself some of these beautiful eggs. Instead of traditional dye, the sepia eggs of my youth are made by boiling the egg alongside yellow onion skins (easily acquired for free, especially in the north-eastern-winter-time-farmers-market glut of root vegetables).

You will need: eggs, onion skins, a small stockpile of interesting leaves (parsley is easy to get in a city as well as the aforementioned), panty-hose or cheesecloth or gauze (I found a bunch of those footies you try on shoes with), rubber bands, some sort of ballast (I used loose change).

-Fill a deep pot with water and bring the onion skins to a boil.

-Hollow out the eggs by piercing a small hole with a pin in either end of the egg, and, positioning the egg over an empty bowl, blow, baby, blow (you can leave the eggs intact, but then the finished product is perishable, and you won’t have the makings of a delicious frittata when it’s all said and done).

-Nestle your egg into the panty-hose (or square of gauze/cheesecloth) and put in a couple of leaves flush with the shell. The leaves resting against the shell creates the relief outline, so use your imagination.

-Tie the egg tightly off with a rubber band, add enough ballast to keep the hollow egg under the water, loop the rubber band around again and drop into the pot.

-Let percolate for as long as you want, until the egg achieves your desired level of greatness.

-Remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon and place into another bowl full of cold water until the egg is cool enough to handle. Unwrap and marvel at your ingenuity.

My Eggs

Sepia isn’t the only color option, though, there are many variations of natural pigments that can be used to imbue the eggs with sweet, tender, and genuine colors not found in a little tear-drop of McCormick food coloring. For yellow eggs, try stargazer lily stamens (use a non-reactive pot and watch your apron!), for purple-blue use beets, for green eggs (ham, foxes, and boxes not included) try spinach. Have some friends over, experiment, make a delicious “McFadden Ricotta Fritatta” with the egg you have left over, and have a happy spring.

Melissa's Upstate Eggs (left) Ann Marie's West Coast Eggs (right)
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