Sunday, June 22, 2014

sunday grace

everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into
the slow circles of an instrument of grace.
-may sarton

truer words were never written.  while my life is not normally what one would consider fast-paced, i practice keeping things slow on a pretty regular basis.  patience is my work in this life.  for so many years, i thought that slowing down meant giving up and being lazy and i allowed life to force me to slow down (or smack me down in some cases) through stress, critical setbacks or losses and sometimes being unwell.

i try to be better than that.  and i continue to work on building a life that supports and nurtures time and space and expansiveness and mindfulness.  practicing within these realms allows me to demonstrate patience and grace under other circumstances that are not as pleasant.

some things that help me practice slowing down:

  • yoga
  • nature
  • a safe home that reflects who we are

  • paying attention to details of life and the nuances of the human condition
  • making art (and making a mess a lot of the time)

  • listening
  • gardening

  • cooking

  • recognizing my shenpas
  • a giant pink bucket of flowers

  • practicing living in the current moment (hour, day, week, month, season, year, life) and not getting too wrapped up in what's to come (this one is tough for me)
  • the farmers' market

  • going to a real honest-to-goodness local bookshop that is not named barnes and noble and purchasing a real honest-to-goodness book (a book that i can touch and smell and whose paper can soak in a tear or two)
  • spending time with all the lives and love and history and mistakes and victories woven into those pages

  • allowing room for not always being right and being mindful of when i overgeneralize

this week, a friend from high school became one of the most powerful people in washington.  kevin mccarthy happens to represent the political party whose tactics i, ahem, pretty much despise.  but what i know about him is his kindness and his intelligence and incredible work ethic and that he is one of the most down-to-earth humans you can ever know.  from time to time i've worried about some of his alliances--he's one of the famed "young guns"--and that he mentored kevin spacey while spacey was preparing for his scary-ass machiavellian role in house of cards.  while i'm certain we disagree on many things, i trust that his authenticity and his kindness and his love of people that i witnessed on a regular basis so many years ago was genuine and true and remains to this day.

he offers me hope that my nation is not doomed to a slow death-by-divisiveness.  

that's a giant pink bucket of grace right there.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

sunday grace

grace showed up this week in quiet moments, good stories, sunshine, rain and lots of rest.  and a patch of land that is pretty much heaven on earth for me:  evergreen lavender farm.

under a perfectly brilliant sun, folks gathered at the little farm in evergreen to celebrate the blooms at the annual lavender festival.  this small farm in central virginia grows six varieties of lavender.  the air was scented with the flowers and barbeque cooking on the fire.  while that seems like an odd mix, it totally worked.

we were free to wander about the farm (it's beautiful!) and harvest fists or jars full of lavender for a small cost while children ran and played and tiny yellow butterflies and bees danced in the air.

bands played under a canopy of trees; a song list that ranged from roger miller to sister sledge.  again, it totally worked.

i love this farm.  it's the perfect size and you can tell that people really live here.  and love their life.

sometimes i feel like i'm too old to still be dreaming about having my own flower and herb farm, but it's spaces like this that remind me it can still happen.

there was the typical festival fare, like artists, great food and drink (hello lavender lemonade), workshops and music, but this event felt more like a summer family reunion on the homestead.  it was comfortable and warm and genuine and happy.

one of my favorite things:  vintage chandeliers hung from massive trees.

more grace:  a mason jar of lavender next to the bed led to a deep restorative sleep laced with dreams of old friends and magical time travel.

happy sunday friends.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

holy mole chocolate ice cream

it figures the appliance that gets the most use in our house, after the coffee maker, is the ice cream maker (poor juicer, he looks so sad every time i open the cabinet where he has been since the aborted juice cleanse of january 2014).

since i landed on the perfect ice cream base recipe to suit my taste, the ideas for flavors just keep coming.  this week, i can't stop thinking of mexico (primarily due to another project in the works).  i love mixing up real mexican cocoa when it's cold outside and i've always thought those strong flavors--dark chocolate, coffee, chili and cinnamon--would translate nicely to frozen treats too.

as i was making this recipe, i was working with what i had in my kitchen.  i used the base recipe and then intuitively added ingredients, thinking i would need to adjust and refine the recipe on additional run-throughs.  amazingly, the first batch was perfect and i'm not changing a thing.

taza mexican chocolate discs can be a bit pricey, but they are so worth it.  the flavors are deep and complex and the product is organic.  i used two whole discs in this recipe, one guajillo chili and one cinnamon.  you can also use abuelita or iberra brands, available in most supermarkets or local mercados, but you may need to add more chili and/or cinnamon.

i had a tin of mano y metate mole dulce in the pantry.  i ordered a few during winter to make mole poblano.  this beautifully complex mix of chocolate, raisins and chilis is the best mole mix i have ever used.  making a good mole is truly an art form and i am happy to leave it to the experts.  you can use any mole dry mix in this recipe.  i have not used the mole paste, but feel free to experiment.

h o l y  m o l e  m e x i c a n  c h o c o l a t e  i c e  c r e a m


  • 3/4 cup organic whole fat milk
  • 1 1/2 cup organic heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 discs mexican chocolate, grated
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 espresso cup brewed espresso
  • 2 tbsp. mole mix
  • toasted pepitas, walnuts or almonds for topping
  1. whisk together milk, cream, sugar and vanilla in a sauce pan over med-low heat (do not allow to bubble)
  2. add the grated chocolate and stir until melted
  3. stir in the cocoa powder, espresso and mole mix
  4. transfer to glass container, cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours up to 24 hours
  5. pour into your machine and churn for 20 minutes
  6. return to glass container and freeze for at least an additional hour (i froze this batch overnight and it was the perfect consistency) 
  7. top with toasted nuts and enjoy
this ice cream is super chocolatey with a warm lingering of spice.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

the creatives {№1}

"the only rule i have is to try something new with each piece."

-nancy garretson, weaver, abingdon, virginia

i am lucky to teach in abingdon several times per year.  this small town in southwest virginia is a relatively undiscovered treasure.  it is full of history, natural beauty, stories, amazing food and southern graciousness.  since i'm working during the day, i had not been able to visit the local artists' cooperative, the arts depot, as it is closed up by evening.

this week i was taking a walk downtown after dinner and noticed people coming out of the studio doors. it just so happened they were holding the inaugural first thursdays open studios on this night.  inside the studios and hallways, the walls were lined with watercolors, photographs, ceramics and textiles.  the artists were busy at work or chatting with visitors.  i could make out the faint melody of cotton-eyed joe being played by the bluegrass band in the back room.

when i entered nancy's brightly lit studio, she was weaving alternate threads of emerald and teal into the tapestry she was creating.  nancy's tapestries are colorful and dimensional expressions of natural landscapes, waterfalls and rivers. her portfolio is stunning.  see some of her work and read about her creative process by clicking here.

nancy was working on one of three looms in her studio.  another one, which she made herself when she couldn't find an affordable loom after she graduated from college in the 70s, stands in a beam of sunlight, a testament to her creative spirit and determination to make art.

nancy told me, "i've been a weaver for forty years.  i made the decision very early on that i wasn't going to focus on making money, i was going to focus on having fun."

it was such a serendipitous pleasure to meet and talk with nancy and see a bit of her work and her process.  it turns out we have several odd things in common.  our conversation inspired me to make more art and to meet more artists.  since i get to travel for work and have evenings free, i am going to make a point to explore more studios and seek out local artists in every virginia town i visit.

nancy told me next time i'm in town to ring the bell at the back door (the one right next to the train tracks) and she would let me in if she happened to be there after the doors are shut, which she often is.

she can count on that.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

so very good and pretty

i love ice cream.   and homemade ice cream has an extra special place in my heart.  i have fond memories of my dad sitting in his aluminum lawn chair in the backyard with the old ice cream maker at his feet, cranking away.  i would sit in for him while he added more ice or rock salt.  if you know my dad, you know this was a huge honor.  just like when he let me water the lawn.  my dad takes his lawn watering and ice cream making very seriously.  i loved the sweet icy bite of that ice cream (which i later found out was because he didn't use eggs).

this weekend i made up my very first batch of homemade ice cream.  i used (and got creative with) a non-egg recipe. and because we have strawberries coming out of our ears right now, the flavor choice was rather obvious.

i wanted to make it special so i roasted half the strawberries.

friends, if you have not yet roasted strawberries, you absolutely must.  yesterday morning, the house smelled of strawberry, coffee and honeysuckle.  if i could bottle and sell that intoxicating scent, i could go ahead and buy my little art/yoga/flower/herb/goat cheese farm with the proceeds.

i also added wild rose petals and pink peppercorns.   the wild roses at the organic garden are going bloom crazy.  they are so beautiful i thought, i just want to eat them.

i used the cuisinart ice cream maker.  it was quick and efficient.  except that i didn't read the instructions and neglected to freeze the bowl, so the ice cream making festivities were delayed 24 hours.

i took like eighty photographs of the condensation on the starburst pan.  i'm weird like that.

isn't she just lovely?

the topping is pistachio and rose petal confetti.

this is the dairy version.  i'm working on a coconut milk recipe.  remember when consuming dairy and strawberries, it is essential to choose organic.  traditionally-grown strawberries are one of most heavily sprayed crops and non-organic dairy milk...well....those poor poisoned cows.

it tastes pretty too.

(i love the tiny strawberry heart on the side of the dish.)

s t r a w b e r r y, w i l d  r o s e & p i n k  p e p p e r c o r n  i c e  c r e a m

  • 1 cup roasted organic strawberries
  • 1 cup fresh organic strawberries, chopped
  • 3/4 cup whole organic milk
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar, plus 1/4 cup for roasted strawberries
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cup organic heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • splash balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. rose water
  • 1 tbsp. pink peppercorns, crushed
  • 3 tbsp. organic rose petals, discard white inner tip and julienne
  • 3 tbsp. pistachios, chopped
for balsamic roasted strawberries:
  1. preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. use a pyrex dish or silpat on a baking sheet
  3. spread strawberries in a single layer
  4. sprinkle with sugar
  5. splash a small amount of balsamic vinegar, about 1 tbsp.
  6. roast for about 40 minutes, stirring a few times during cooking
  7. smash with fork (keep syrup)
  8. refrigerate until ready to use
for ice cream:
  1. whisk together milk, sugar and salt until sugar is dissolved
  2. stir in cream and vanilla
  3. cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours up to 24 hours
  4. make sure you freeze your ice cream maker bowl
  5. right before you make the ice cream, stir in all the strawberries (with the syrup), the lemon zest, the peppercorns and the rose water
  6. pour into your machine and let it churn for 20 minutes
  7. meanwhile, make the petal and pistachio confetti
  8. when ready, pour your ice cream into another container
  9. top with confetti
  10. freeze for at least one hour or to desired iciness
soooo good.

happy summer friends!

(notes:  the pink peppercorns gave a subtle bite to the cream, but i'm not sure it was worth the effort separating them out from the green, white and black peppercorns.  i couldn't find them in my little town, so this is what i had to do.  if you can't find them, this ice cream can totally survive without them.  also if you are eating flowers, they must be purchased as "edible flowers" at the store or from a garden that you know is organic.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

a week in color {№9}

there is no doubt the weeks when spring is transitioning to summer are the most lush and technicolor of all.  we are living in a riot of colors here on gypsy hill.  it is almost (almost) too much for me.  it is right around this time when i dream of wearing white cotton voile sundresses with french linen pinafores to balance and soften my rainbow world.

here's what i was up to last week:

i planted a wood trough of succulents for the outdoor dining table (above).

i confirmed my love affair with all things floral at pharsalia's flower workshop.

i put together a mini outdoor altar.  mary and lakshmi, together in peace, bringing blessings to the homestead.

i finished planting the herbs on the kitchen balcony.  i just realized that in this photo, it pretty much looks like only flowers.  there's rosemary, lavender, three different thymes, oregano, green and purple basil, mint and cilantro in there as well.  also, the fig tree (off to the side) so far looks like it recovered from the polar vortex.

i made many many trips to the karma garden to gather this year's strawberry harvest.

i painted a bit.

i ate honeysuckle jam (honeysuckle jam!) that i got at the farmers' market.

i made the best guacamole known to man for memorial day afternoon but we ended up devouring it before lunch.

i ate this giant bowl of happy with avocado, organic greens and flowers from the farmers' market.

i got scapes at the market too.  have you had them?  i'm going to make pesto, i think.

this week the karma garden is giving us strawberries, catmint and arugula.  the tomatoes are beginning to flower and when i water them, they give off that tomato leaf scent that reminds me of my grandma's california garden.  reminds me of love.