Monday, August 31, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I totally went against my word yesterday. I'd sworn, after spending so much time in the kitchen last weekend that I was going to give myself a break from cooking. But it turns out I couldn't help it! Here's why: after getting zucchini from my CSA, missing an event when friends baked a zucchini cake and facing a chilly and cloudy Sunday, I decided that I needed to bake. (Side note: it totally feels like fall here in Iowa. The lows have been in the 50s and this morning when I went to breakfast it was 57! A little strange not to be sweating through the last days of August, but I'm not complaining!) I think I wound up with my oven on for about 5 straight hours—I made granola bars (I made a batch last weekend but I burned them since I used a bigger pan than the recipe called for and didn't adjust the baking time), whole wheat bread, roasted veggies and this chocolate zucchini bread. I was really craving it and since I couldn't find a recipe that I liked, I decided to tweak a basic zucchini bread recipe to my liking. I realize that this is a risk since baking can be a precision sport, but I figured that this type of bread would take a lot to mess up. Below is what I wound up doing. It made my house smell delicious and I'm looking forward to eating this for breakfast with a side of yogurt, and also for a few afternoon snacks.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Adapted from How to Cook Everything*
Time: 1 1/2 hours
Makes: 1 loaf

2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 c sugar (I used half raw cane sugar and half honey for flavor)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 c dutch process cocoa
1/2 c chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped walnuts
2 eggs
1 1/4 c milk
1/2 stick butter, melted plus more to grease the pan
1 c grated and drained zucchini (I probably used closer to a cup and a half as I didn't want to waste the remainder of the one I was using)

1.) Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
2.) Combine all of the dry ingredients. Beat the eggs with the milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it, along with the zucchini. Use a large spoon to fold the ingredients together being careful not to overmix. The batter should be lumpy.
3.) Pour into the prepared loaf pan and baked for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out dry. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

*I've been cooking from this cookbook a lot lately and I hope it's not getting boring for you. I think that it's a great place to start because the basic recipes are all so great that it allows me to confidently build off of them.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Inspired Image: Jenn from Department of the Interior

Hello my name is Jenn Lore.

You can find me at Department of the Interior, my DC-based design blog and on Twitter @JennL

This image comes from Slim Aarons, the late photographer famous for his portraits of the wealthy, tanned and impossibly glamorous jet-set of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. This particular image comes from El Venero, the Moorish villa of Hector and Chico de Ayala in Marbella, Spain and was taken in 1971.

It inspires me to channel the exotic and mysterious in my everyday life. My natural instincts compel me to always show all of my cards. A coworker tells me my hair looks great, my response is a half-joking, “Well that’s because I actually brushed it today.” A friend compliments my outfit, I say, “Oh, please this was the only decent thing not on the floor.”

To me, this image evokes a time (perhaps imagined) when sophistication was something that could not be bought at your local mall. It was a lifestyle, and a particular way of carrying yourself that was accessible not only to the heirs of industrial capitalist fortunes, but also to someone like your mother or grandmother who always remembers to put on her lipstick and wouldn’t dream of telling her neighbor she hadn’t done laundry in two weeks.

I particularly love the way Aarons shot the scene from a distance. It is much like the way a wildlife photographer would shoot a pride of lions or the way that Ansel Adams would have shot a snow-capped mountain. The distance between the subjects and the viewer is a reminder that this is something apart from you; rare and exotic. And it was. Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous didn’t air until 1984, and US Magazine wasn’t yet printing photos of celebrities pushing strollers captioned, “Stars come within three feet of their offspring. They’re just like US!!”

It makes me feel open to an adventure, and honestly, quite willing drop everything to jet off to Palm Springs with a band of wealthy, international nomads. (a la Don Draper, Mad Men season

The three words it conjures up are intrigue, glamour and true luxury.

*Note from Amy: How rad is Jenn's blog name?! I just Love it! Happy Friday everyone. I know I'm very relieved to have nearly made it through this week (have I mentioned that getting a magazine to the printer is a ton of work? Because it is! Good thing I love my job!) and am looking forward to a relaxing weekend. And thankfully, it seems like the sun is finally going to join us, so hooray for that!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Smitten with Gourmet Invitations Seating Charts

I am still surrounded by friends who are getting married and as I get ready to start on a few projects in preparation for one this fall (jt's in New Orleans and I can't wait!), I am loving these seating charts. Tifany runs Gourmet Invitations up in Michigan and started the company after she made most of the paper goods for her own wedding. After that she started doing things for friends and it seems to have taken off from there!

I love that these charts are contained on a page and that they are graphic, romantic and give a lot of typographical interest. Not to mention that they seem like a wonderful memento to be able to frame after the big day.

The projects I'm about to start are much more DIY than this (they involve a lot of fabric scraps!) but it's still interesting to see the style of a wedding captured this way.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Katie's Channel Island Paintings

Today is a very special day because I get to show off a recent painting by my very own sweet sister Katie. She was always the artistic one when we were little and definitely has the technical skills to back it up, though I can definitely now hold my own with a needle and a bottle of Mod Podge! But she's a wonderful painter and, like most of us, she doesn't always have enough time to create as she'd like, but when she finds it she never fails to remind me just how talented she is. This one here is a painting on two canvases that she just did about a week ago and has hung in her living room. More from her on the story behind the image:

"The painting is based on a photo I took on Dave and my camping trip to Santa Cruz Island (part of Channel Islands National Park - off the coast of Santa Barbara). The photo was taken on the way home from a long day of hiking as we were heading towards a pebble beach on a different part of the island. I noticed the fog rolling in from the ocean, and snapped a photo which shows the mountains in the background, and the road that we had hiked up. I loved the photo and now I love the painting because I have great memories of that trip—the views of mountains and the water are gorgeous—the water has this deep turquoise color that I really wasn't expecting. The islands have a lot of interesting wildlife and plants there that aren't anywhere else like a special kind of fox that has been on it's way back from near-extinction. Plus, the trip to and from the island was exciting. We took a boat about 20 miles off the coast with all of our camping gear, food and water. At one point, we were surrounded by a huge school of dolphins.

One curious thing is that the island had a huge problem with feral pigs that were introduced first as domestic animals. The pigs became overpopulated and destroyed a lot of the native vegetation and attracted golden eagles which ended up killing most of the native island foxes. The park service has a number of programs which are working to bring back the native vegetation and wild life like the island foxes. The foxes have made a big comeback—we even saw some on the outskirts of our campsite. That's slightly off topic, but interesting I think.

I'm looking forward to having guests come over so I will have an excuse to talk about that trip and remember what a cool place it is."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Q&A: Susan of Black Ink

I am heading to Boston to go to a food conference in September and I am hoping (fingers tightly crossed) that I can find time to check out Black Ink. Read on to find out why!

Name: Susan Corcoran
Hometown: Chicago
Website/Shops: Black Ink and the Museum of Useful Things

Tell me a little bit about your stores and how you decided to open them.
Black Ink originally opened in 1994 selling a large stamp collection and a few accessories, we now sell a large collection of personal accessories, gifts and cards and a few stamps. Black ink is my favorite color to stamp with, hence the name. Our original store is the Charles Street location, under 500 square feet and packed with goods, it's a sentimental favorite. Our Harvard Square location opened in 2001 and is twice the size with a slightly different collection of goods and a lot more space to play with and merchandise.

What is your shop known for?
Both Black Ink stores are known for their eclectic and idiosyncratic products and merchandising. Laura Sabolefski and I do the buying and she blends it all together beautifully in the stores. We have new merchandise arriving constantly and look for the unexpected yet functional pieces. Our cross-merchandising is the real essence, it's done with a sense of balance and humor.

What do you hope customers experience by stopping by?
Many of our customers stop by frequently to see what's new (and to pet our store dog, Toby.)

How is Black Ink connect with MUT?
The Museum of Useful Things grew out of my search for truly functional yet beautiful products, which is as hard as it sounds. While theMUT was once a brick and mortar store, we have reverted to the website only, which gives us a much wider audience.

Do you have a favorite product in your shop right now?
My favorite product is usually what's newest, and that is subject to change day to day. We all have our favorite classic Black Ink product, mine is probably the Super Clip, it's truly beautiful and is something I enjoy using. That's the essence of Black Ink.

What are some things you have coming up at the store this fall?
We're just back from New York, and found some amazing new stuff for Fall and Holiday. One of Laura and I's favorites was the Japanese stress-reducing bread slices! Also some twisted new products from the classic French doll manufacturer, Petit Collin.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Weekend Highlights (All About Food!)

It's been unseasonably mild here in Iowa, which means that the weekend was mid-70s and sunny, with very low humidity. Which means that it was completely lovely. I did spend a chunk of time in my kitchen, which I am determined not to do next weekend. But I seem to be in a honeymoon period—still—with my kitchen and my ability to use my stove without moving things out of the way (which was the case in my NYC apt). Not to mention the counter space! Anyway, here are a few things that I did and made over the weekend.

1.) No-Knead bread: I needed to make bread, but I was a little tired on Friday night when I was planning so I decided to go with no-knead. I used the regular recipe (not the speedy one) and let it rest over night. I cooked it in my cast iron dutch oven and the crust was crunchy and the inside was soft and chewy (and remarkably light). The dough was super wet, but I think that's why it wound up so moist—the first half of the cooking process is done with the lid of the dutch oven on. I had it this morning with breakfast, toasted with butter and apricot preserves. Definitely had to force myself to stop eating it as it was so good!

2.) I roasted my first chicken. For those of you who also read my posts on on Thursdays (that's the day when I write about food on our blog over there), you know that I recently bought a few sustainably raised chickens from a local farmer. (Not alive, frozen.) I want to support exactly this type of local producer, I like meat a lot, and roasting a chicken was on my to-do list for 2009, so this was a win-win. I used the simple roast chicken recipe from Mark Bittman and basted the bird with chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in olive oil and I am excited to eat this in various ways throughout the week.

3.) I made chocolate chip cookies for the first time on my own. I realized when I was mixing the dough that I'd only ever made them with either my mom or Virginia, both of whom are excellent bakers! So I was a little nervous, but when I brought them to a potluck on Saturday and they were met with rave reviews, I was reassured that I did a good job. I actually didn't have granulated sugar and used raw cane sugar in it's place (along with brown sugar) and I think that gave them a distinct texture because you could kind of taste the large sugar granules, which were a bit caramelized. So that plus the Ghirdelli chips I used, which are huge, were key. Lucky for me I saved a few so I can enjoy my efforts for dessert!

I also made a large batch of pesto (for the pesto pasta salad that I also took to the potluck), granola bars, wheat berries and roasted beets. I realize this list seems a tad excessive, but I know I will be having a busy week at work so I was determined to stock my fridge with food I can easily combine into meals. Though next weekend I'm not going to do so much—I am promising myself!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Inspired Image: Candy of Candied Fabrics

Hello, my name is Candy Glendening

You can find me at &

This image comes from Sapphire Pool, a thermal feature in the Biscuit Basin of Yellowstone National Park. We spent 8 amazing days there earlier this Summer.

It inspires me because it's so amazing that this thing exists at all, it's created by unseen physical forces deep beneath the Earth.

I particularly love the crystal clear sapphire blue COLOR!

It makes me feel calm, but excited, all at the same time. It makes me NEED to create, to interpret these colors with dyes & fabric.

The 3 words it conjures up are clarity, purity & hope.

I've begun to make digital palettes from inspiring photos that I take and use them as a basis for a new piece of textile art, where I'll try to dye the colors I pull from the photo and then use that fabric in a piece. I'll post the palette from this photo over on my blog, if you'd like to drop by & take a look!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mom's Quilt Update #6

It's been a while since I showed you any progress on the wall hanging I'm making for my mom, but here you can see that I have been quilting away. I haven't been devoting as much time to sewing as I'd like—though I say that realizing I haven't been sewing because I've really been enjoying my summer, so I'm not complaining!—so this is going to take me a while. But I love even seeing a little bit of progress because I can start to get a sense of what the finished product will look like. And even stitches around one more block is a step in the right direction, right? I have been thinking about taking this to my office to sew a bit around lunch time, which I imagine could be a nice break in the middle of my day since usually I'm glued to my computer catching up on other blogs.
Actually, I'm going to give this a shot today and see how it goes!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

I thought I'd take a few moments to share some of my recent favorites with you. This is a very random assortment, but I think each speaks to the mood I'm in lately...filled with gratitude, enjoying the vibrancy of summer and inspired to carve out some time to sew very, very soon. I also find that whenever the pace at work speeds up, as it's about to, I am more in need of visual inspiration, so I've decided to go with it!

Large Scallop Pouches (shown above) from Pat & Cake on etsy. I recently broke the zipper on a makeup bag I've had for years and years and am on the market for a new one. I adore the colors and the style of these and I can image taking one out of a suitcase on the other end of a long day of traveling and being very happy.

Things to Do poster from my friends at Ephemera. Sweet little reminders perfect for making each day a little more meaningful.

It's really very simple:

1. Stop. Look. Listen.
(the most important things are happening right now, right in front of you)

2. List the things you'd like to do.
(now get started. However small. However grandly.

3. Say "hello" and "thank you" and "bless you."
(appreciate the people who share your path)

4. Surprise someone. Surprise yourself.
(life is so very short.)

5. Do one kind thing. And then do another...
(see what happens)

Tana Lawn Liberty of London fabric. I've had my eye on this one for a few months and since I'm already swimming in uncompleted sewing projects, I've held off. But I love the colors and the pattern so very much.

The Gray Bed set from Les Indiennes. My bedding is about 6 years old and since my last apartment had very large windows and my bed was in direct sun for most of the day, my sheets are seriously faded (which is fine with me except that it's really uneven so they just look Old). I'm planning to make myself a new duvet at some point and get plain white (or another neutral color) sheets to go with it, but until then I'm dreaming of this quilt. I love the soft gray on white palette.

Le Jardin Pillow from Mireio. Check out this description:
"Featuring a stunning piece of crewel embroidery from the early 1920s that I just couldn't resist salvaging. Gorgeous berry and salmon pink blooms are accented with deep lichen and gold foliage. The spray of flowers is almost architectural, reminiscent of the vining you might find in old iron gates. The handwork is raised and has such an amazing texture. There are a few imperfections--due to the age of this handworked piece--but they don't detract from the beauty in any way." Amazing!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Weekend Project: Skillet Cornbread

My friend Brianne gave me a jar of pear butter last week and ever since then. I've had a serious craving for cornbread. I happened to have just bought a bag of local cornmeal, so I made this lovely version adapted from The Real Food Daily Cookbook. I love both the Southern-style skillet corn bread recipe, and the one for Wheat-free corn muffins, but I went for the skillet version since it was a bit simpler. It turned out really well—moist, dense, and really flavorful. It was a perfect breakfast, warmed and slathered with pear butter.

Southern-style Skillet Corn Bread
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used regular whole wheat flour)
2 tbsp baking powder
2 cups unsweetened soymilk (I used regular 2% milk)
1/3 maple syrup
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Sift the cornmeal, flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Whisk the milk, maple syrup, the 1/3 cup oil, and the sea salt in a separate bowl to blend. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and set aside.
2. Add the remaining 2 tbsp oil to a 12-inch diameter cast-iron skillet and swirl to coat the bottom and sides of the skillet. Heat the skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke. Pour the batter into the hot skillet and spread evenly. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the corn bread is firm to the touch and golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool slightly.
Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Also, if you're curious to hear about my new CSA, check out the last in a series of posts I did last week on about a Week Without Processed Foods. The results were pretty enlightening!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Inspired Image: Elizabeth of Chimney Rock Winery

Hello, my name is Elizabeth Vianna

This image comes from Napa Valley. This is one of my best friends who also makes wine, with his older son a few years ago.

It inspires me because it is a reminder of the beauty of our daily surroundings in the Napa Valley and makes me feel connected to the land. It is a reminder that our wines in the end always represent a place and its people.

I particularly love the joy in Will's expression as he is thrown into the air by his father.

It makes me feel lucky to be a winemaker, responsible for the beautiful land we tend to, happy to be alive.

The 3 words it conjures up are friends, joy, and yes of course, wine.

I've known Elizabeth for many, many years and I am very fortunate to be able to consider her part of my family. She is very smart and talented, dispenses wise advice and, very importantly, she makes amazing wines for Chimney Rock. I love the context of the vines here and am so happy that she was able to share this image with us. Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Virginia and Dan's Wedding: Ceremony and Reception

Here is the happy couple about to walk down the aisle. Yes, they walked down together, which I thought was incredible. It really showed how much they value their partnership and that they are entering their marriage as a team. Plus, so cool that they decided to individualize what is such a traditional aspect of the wedding. Dan wore a suit from J.Crew, with custom Vans, and Virginia wore a knee length dress from Morgan Le Fay. The dress originally had sheer sleeves, but she decided (and we all agreed) that they were a little unnecessary and that the dress looked much cleaner without them.

The colors of the wedding were purples, with highlights of fuschia, and green and I love how the gray of Dan's suit worked in that palette.
The bouquet that V carried was designed by Anita Soos and it's wrapped in a vintage handkerchief. That added a bit of color, gave V something soft to hold onto and also fit in with another aspect of the wedding—all of the thank you cards that she and Dan gave the wedding party were made with similar handkerchiefs.

And here is "Team VA", as we were known. We all got to choose our own dresses, as long as we stayed within the color scheme. It was so much fun to get to shop around for something that fit us all individually, but that also worked for the style of the wedding. Amazingly, everyone but me wound up in purple!

I don't have too many photos of the food from the wedding (we were too busy eating it!) but it was amazing. It came from La Cuisine in Branford, CT and most of it was local and sustainably raised. Not to mention beautifully presented.
Dan and Virginia also were totally original when it came to dessert. They opted to have ice cream from local favorite Ashley's instead of cake (they just like ice cream better!). So there was mint chocolate chip, black raspberry (V's mom loves this flavor) and coffee chip. Everyone got a trip with a mini cone and hot fudge sauce. Additional toppings were on the table served in parfait glasses. And miniature desserts (like brownies and cookies) were on cake stands just to round out the offerings.
Here you can see some of the stands, which again were all vintage. They added a nice depth to the table setting and are now happily being used by many of us (I managed to wind up with five!). I hope you all enjoyed the extended look at the wedding. After helping my friends put it together for nearly a year, I'm thrilled that it was as much fun (and gorgeous) as everyone hoped!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

V's Wedding: the Garden Setting

As you all know, my best friends Virginia and Dan were married in late June. I am finally able to share the professional pictures with you (the editing process took a while!), taken by Anita Soos, so you can see more of what we did to make their day unique. Just to remind you, the ceremony and reception were in Virginia's mom and stepdad's backyard in Guilford, Connecticut. The sign above, created by Dan, marked the entrance to the house.

I'm jumping straight to the centerpieces because they were the central feature of the decor. They were central in planning the look of everything else at the wedding and were the aspect we have been most excited about for the past year. Each centerpiece was unique—Virginia and her mom collected vintage wooden boxes over the past year and Anita (who was responsible for the entire visual look of the wedding from invites to flowers and photography) and her assistant Dee planted each with an assortment of flowers in the color palette. Virginia and her sister sewed the table toppers from three different but coordinating fabrics from Purl Patchwork. The table numbers were another vintage find and each table had different enamel or metal numbers.

Here you can see a table that had just one large box in the center. The rustic wood of the boxes with the somewhat loose arrangements went perfectly with the garden setting. And it was so fun to see the idea that Virginia had for so long come to life in such an impressive way.

Here is their guest book arrangement, which had two options: you could either type them a note using the vintage typewriter (Virginia and Dan are both writers and V has a special place in her heart for typewriters) or simply write in the kraft paper Moleskin books. I actually had those notebooks and used Mod Podge to secure on some paper lace to dress them up. I also added a piece of ribbon as a page marker. We had both because the typewriter was still at the repair shop two days before the wedding! But it came through just in time—and we decided to give guests a choice. There were also a handful of flip cameras floating around for people to record messages and moments during the evening.

This was one of my very favorite spots at the wedding. These are the wedding photos of Virginia and Dan's grandparents, labeled with small manilla office labels and hung on a wall of the shed. In the center are the table listings.

Here you can see a close up of the frames and the images. I loved the way that the colors of the flowers that were arranged around the shed worked against the wood. And there was just something so pleasing about the formal pictures hung in that setting.

To close, here's a sneak peak of more of the photos that I'll share here tomorrow! (That's Virginia and her sweet sister Caroline.)

Instant Heirloom: Marianne of MaeBee Jewelry

Name: Marianne Evenhuis
Hometown: I grew up in San Diego, CA and have lived in the SF Bay Area for 20 years
Facebook: MaeBee Jewelry
Crazy, all these communication tools!!

Tell me a little bit about what you make:
I like to make just about anything, but for the past year or so I have been making jewelry. It is hip handmade jewelry (mostly bracelets) from unusual links, charms and beads in sterling, silverplate, gold vermeil or goldplate. Most are on earthy waxed linen or deerskin leather cords. These casual pieces have been described as a cool blend of bohemia and earthiness with a bit of shine. Just what I was going for!

How did you decide to start your line?
Like most things I start making, I see something I like, but think I can make it even better. I've done this with holiday cards and invitations...I never saw ones that inspired me much, so I started making my own. Pretty soon my friends started hiring me to make them and the next think I know I'm in business! I've done this with collage and painted furniture too. With the jewelry, I saw a bracelet I liked, went and bought supplies and went nuts! I just kept seeing things I wanted to use for materials...unsual links, stones, different leathers, colored linen...I went crazy with it. One week, I was taking a letterpress class in San Francisco and the teacher told me about Etsy (she's Greenchair Press) and I immediately opened a shop.

How does your creative process work?
I go to the bead shops and look at everything. I usually look for unusual metal pieces or anything that might be cool with leather or linen cord. I plop all of it on my work table and I just play with combos until one strikes me...this is the most fun part!

Why is making things rewarding to you?
Having a creative outlet is exciting and relaxing at the same time. There isn't any pressure, you just let your head and hands go at it. It is also incredibly rewarding when someone else wants it! That's what makes selling on Etsy so fun.

What's your current favorite color combination?
Since it's summer, I love the turquoise, navy and purple as a mix. I bought linens in these colors at the beginning of summer, they remind me of the ocean, sky, etc. So, I created a set of harmony bracelets with those. I love seeing them together.

What inspires you?
Nature. I am a nature girl at heart, so the less blingy the better for me. Things that are not too manufactured (go handmade!) and "rough around the edges".

Is this your full-time work?
Yes, but being a mom and wife come first.

What's the best part of your day?
Around 5 o'clock when my husband pours us both a glass of wine.

Do you have a favorite product in your shop right now?
I LOVE my new "Button Up Sterling & Leather" bracelet. It came together so nicely...better than I had imagined it, so that's always fun. I made one for myself which I rarely do.

What do you like to do when you're not working on your creations?
Ski with my family, hike with friends, get pulled down the street by my dog, watch my kids games, watch "Curb Your Enthusiasm", gab on Facebook, sing in my car, eat and drink with funny people...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Peach Crisp

I have major news to share today: I joined a CSA! I am so thrilled, so excited that I finally made this happen after years of wanting to be a member. The one farm that I'd hoped to get a fall share with was all full, but on Saturday morning I finally found a vendor that had heirloom beets (chiogga in particularly), which I'd just been complaining that I couldn't find, and realized that they have a fall CSA as well. They are a150 year old family farm and it sounds like they grow a lot of heirloom veggies, and they were also just certified organic in June. So it's right up my alley. As soon as Melissa, the keeper of the CSA, told me about an heirloom tomato taste test that they are having out at the farm in a few weeks, with a potluck to follow, for members, I was sold. I'll let you know how it goes once I start getting my shares.
In the meantime, here's a delicious and very easy recipe for a peach crisp, that you can see I made over the weekend. It's part of my preparation for my "Week Without Processed Foods" over at I'll be sharing my experience figuring out just what a processed food exactly is, and trying to not eat any all week- which I think will mostly mean that I cook all of my own meals and only purchase foods with one ingredient (like rice). The series is an attempt to increase our awareness of how we take certain things—which may or may not actually be necessary or good for us—for granted. My coworker Katherine Sharpe did a "Week Without Plastic" last week which was fascinating to say the least. I'm also planning to photograph each meal, so I hope it's interesting to see how difficult (or not) and time consuming this is to really do.

Peach Crisp
Adapted from the New Moosewood Cookbook
4 large peaches, sliced into chunks
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick melted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Combine the peaches and the sugar in a 9-inch square pan (which I don't have, so I used a pie plate).
2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Distribute evenly over the fruit and press into place.
3. Bake 45 minutes or until the top is crisp and light brown, and the fruit is bubbling around the edges. (I think I actually cooked it for an hour since the top took a long time to brown.) Serve warm or at room temperature, preferrably with ice cream!

Friday, August 7, 2009

August Print of the Month (and an Inspired Image from me)

Hello, my name is Amy.

You can find me right here and at

This image comes from Fieryeyed on Etsy, it's called Across the Lane

It inspires me because I love the soft quality of light and knowing that she took the polaroid in Tuscany, an area of Italy that I adore. And I was there just about a year ago, so it brings up many wonderful memories (most of which involve food—gelato please!).

I particularly love that I can completely visualize myself walking down that road, on my way to enjoy a meal at an outdoor table with food friends, fresh food (perhaps a plate of freshly made pasta), and lots of wine.

It makes me feel hopeful.

The 3 words it conjures up are relaxed, warmth, and summer.

I decided to do my August print pick (one of my New Year's goals was to buy a printed piece of art from an independent artist each month) as an Inspired Image today since it's been over a year since I did one. I'm always asking others to do this like it's the easiest thing in the world, but I found out that it's not—it's actually difficult to capture the quality of an image in words. But I really like the process of trying and sharing lovely images. I absolutely love Jenifer's photography and highly recommend her blog Nectar & Light. Have a great weekend everyone and thanks so much for being here with me!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Upcycled Bobby Pins and a Peek into a Local Shop

As I told you last week, I helped tend shop at Ephemera Stationary Studio here in Des Moines this past Saturday while my friends (and shop owners) Arin and Karen enjoyed a well deserved vacation. While there, I became even more obsessed with these bobby pins made by Christine of Chricket Designs. She makes hair accessories first and foremost because she loves them—an excellent reason I think!—and uses mostly vintage and upcycled materials for them.

Sometimes she uses old earrings like these.

Or like these (which I have to image were clip ons...).

And she frequently does custom designs for bridal parties because it's a really inexpensive way (each pair is about $12) to accessorize many girls for a special day.

She also makes headbands from zippers and tape measures like this one. Christine actually spends most of her time in law school, but crafts as her creative outlet.

And so you can see inside of the shop, here are a few shots of Ephemera. The ladies stock stationary, cards, jewelry, personal accessories and some books, which turns out to be a collection of lovely, thoughtful things. They feature the work of many local artists, which makes shopping feel like a little community tour.

Here is some of their jewelry (girls if you're reading this, let me know who the maker is so I can let everyone know!).

And a wall of their delightful selection of cards, some of which are ones that they've made themselves which are some of my favorites.

This is a photo from their two year birthday party, but it's a pretty good representation of what goes on their regularly. Which is baked goods. They bake a lot and really well. My experience there was really great because their customers are so friendly and because their shop is such a creative space. It felt very natural for me to sit behind the counter and quilt, in between helping customers of course!