August 2014

Gone fishing…

It's almost over...

It’s almost over…

We are finally packing our bags and are going to be enjoying the last burst of summer on a tiny island in Maine. It’s completely off the grid, with no cars, barely any internet (smart phones have managed to find a way to function, but the service is, thankfully, spotty) lots of lobsters and long walks in the woods and collecting of rocks. It’s our annual moment to recharge as a family.

We’ve got friends in our house, so the plants will be watered and the fish will be fed. I’ve got autorespond vacation messages on my e mail, and I will be unplugging for the better part of the next 10 days.

So go make some cobbler and drink some honey punch and enjoy these last few lazy days. I’ll be back in business around the 6th of September and can’t wait to share all sorts of nonsense with you all then.

Take it easy…

The best clam chowder ever

My very own clam chowder. That I made all by myself. With the help of Mr Sam Sifton of the NY Times.

My very own clam chowder. That I made all by myself. With the help of Mr Sam Sifton of the NY Times.

I’ve had the NY Times article with this recipe open on my browser for a couple of weeks and have finally (FINALLY!) gotten around to making it. I’m not sure why, but I have always considered New England clam chowder to be something that one orders at restaurants. I am happy to report that I have now become a person-who-makes-their-own-chowder.

And I couldn’t be happier, because this soup is seriously delicious. And easy to make. Plus it’s hard to go wrong when bacon is a main ingredient.

The recipe is below, or you can go straight to the source, and admire their far superior photograph while you’re at it.

Sam Sifton’s New England style clam chowder

1 hour


24 medium-size quahog clams, usually rated ‘‘top neck’’ or ‘‘cherrystone,’’ rinsed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 pound slab bacon or salt pork, diced
2 leeks, tops removed, halved and cleaned, then sliced into half moons
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups cream
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley.


1. Put the clams in a large, heavy Dutch oven, add about 4 cups water, then set over medium-high heat. Cover, and cook until clams have opened, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. (Clams that fail to open after 15 to 20 minutes should be discarded.) Strain clam broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or doubled-up paper towels, and set aside. Remove clams from shells, and set aside as well.

2. Rinse out the pot, and return it to the stove. Add butter, and turn heat to medium-low. Add bacon or salt pork, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the pork has started to brown, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove pork from fat, and set aside.

3. Add the leeks to the fat, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in potatoes and wine, and continue cooking until wine has evaporated and the potatoes have just started to soften, approximately 5 minutes. Add enough clam broth to just cover the potatoes, approximately 3 cups, reserving the rest for another use. Add the thyme and the bay leaf.

4. Partly cover the pot, and simmer gently until potatoes are tender, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, chop the clams into bits about the size of the bacon dice.

6. When potatoes are tender, add cream and stir in chopped clams and reserved bacon. Add black pepper to taste. Let come to a simmer, and remove from heat. (Do not let chowder come to a full boil.) Fish out the thyme and the bay leaf, and discard.

7. The chowder should be allowed to sit for a while to cure. Reheat it to a bare simmer before serving, then garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with oyster crackers.

8 to 10 servings

Monday, Monday– or more links to inspire some end-of-summer fun

summer is almost over

The summer season is slowly coming to an end… Soon all we’ll have left is some warm memories and a few shells. Here are a few links to help inspire a little late summer enjoyment.

Get some inspiration for your end-of-summer vacation shots by checking out these 18 great photography blogs.

The first frame by frame embroidered music video doesn’t really relate to any kind of late summer activity, but it’s pretty damned cool.

Check out these incredible treehouses and let me know which one you want to live in.

Take this quiz to see if you are addicted to your smart phone. And then maybe put it down for a minute or two…

Make yourself some of this delicious watermelon gazpacho.

Go splash around in a in a swimming hole… check out this handy guide to find a lovely place to take a dip nearby.

Keep the feeling of summer on your lips by making up a batch of this DIY lemonade lip balm.

Bye bye summer…

our sons and daughters farm camp

If only this little universe could be open (and sunny and warm…) all year round

Last week was the official end of farm camp for the summer, which always makes me a bit sad. Waldorf inspired and entirely outdoors, the kids sing and hike and compost and play and create and swing and eat and build and grow their way through the season, and I sit in front of my computer down the road at the Amagansett Library whilst secretly wishing I could be outside singing along with them.

It is a truly magical place, and one we will always return to… until that inevitable year when Ada is finally too old to take part. (Though who knows? Maybe there will be a junior counselor job waiting for her around that corner…) This year they have expanded their offerings, with a dedicated art camp for the older kids (6 to 10) in which the campers created all sorts of works of art that we will love and cherish and put in a pile and wonder what we’re going to do with them and eventually give some of them away to the grandparents and put the rest of them in a pile with all the other art-that-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with.

But in the meantime, I will photograph it all and put it up here for you all to enjoy. And to be inspired by, and to remember all of the various crafts you may have done when you were a kid (I’m sure I did all sorts of things, but my amazingly unsentimental parents have saved next to nothing– which makes their house far less cluttered than mine) Because while summer is almost over, we still have a bit of time left, so take out those toilet paper rolls and make dolls, paint boxes to put all of your treasures in, and sketch or paint a little something every day in order to preserve the memories of this present moment.

Because tomorrow is right around the corner and coming up fast.

In the meantime, as promised, the artwork:

My daughter loves this

A Wrinkle in TIme, the classic children's science fiction novel by Madeline L'Engle.

A Wrinkle in Time, the classic children’s science fiction novel by Madeline L’Engle.

Despite the fact that I, the overly-dedicated-to-analogue-still-listens-to-vinyl person that I am, have just about given up on the cassette format, I continue to refer to audiobooks as books on tape. Which thoroughly confuses my daughter, who I am sure wonders why anyone would bother putting books onto rolls of masking tape. But confusion aside, our family has become totally devoted to the format.

For years, the CD version of D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths (read by Harry Belafonte, Matthew Broderick, Paul Newman and Kathleen Turner) has lived in our glove compartment, as has Leonard Bersnstien’s brilliant reading of Peter and the Wolf. We must have listened to Cherry Jones read Little House on the Prairie and Little House in the Big Woods 3 or 4 times this summer alone.

But our current obsession is Hope Davis’ reading of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which was one of my absolute favorite books growing up. There is nothing more satisfying than sharing your own favorite things with your children and watching them become equally enthralled. It happened with corn on the cob. It happened with Prince. And is has just happened with the crazy story of the Murray kids and their quest to save their father.

It’s got real science to learn, as well as science fiction. There are some good lessons about the beauty of being yourself and the power of love. There’s even a tiny bit of first kiss style romance. All tied together into a plot that is so gripping, we had to press pause when my husband got out to fill the car up with gas. He didn’t want to miss a beat. And we couldn’t blame him.

And neither will you.

And while we’re on the topic of berries…

canal house cobbler

The hands of the inspirational Nancy Hagen, putting the crust on the cobbler.

Last weekend, my family went to spend the day on Shelter Island with my friend Nancy’s family. Our daughters have been friends since birth, and visits with the Ethridges always feel a bit like coming home.

That evening, we tagged along with them to a big multigenerational outdoor summer barbeque, with burgers, grilled tuna, lots of crisp veggies, a pool for the kids. and plenty of beer and wine for the adults. Nancy volunteered to supply cobblers for desert, so we spent a bit of our afternoon making what, if I do say so myself, was the most delicious summer cobbler I have ever had.

Thanks goes to Canal House, from whence the recipe comes. To Nancy, for being the chef de cuisine. To Josh, for his expert dissection of the peaches. And to me for… lots of mixing and recording, which is my usual role.

The recipe follows. You can use whatever fruit is in season… we chose peaches and blueberries, which is what looked best at the market that afternoon. Right now, the possibilities are endless. And one piece of advice… you might want to double it up and make two of these as they have a way of disappearing into thin air.

Canal House Berry Cobbler

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp cornstarch (we used Wondra as we didn’t have any cornstarch)
2 pint fresh raspberries or a combination of your favorite berries

Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Using a wooden spoon, beat the butter and 1/2 cup of the sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until well combined. Beat in the egg yolk and 1/4 tsp of the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir until well combined. Refrigerate the dough while preheating the oven to 375.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cornstarch in a medium bowl. Add the berries and the remaining 1 tsp of vanilla and toss gently to coat.

Put the berries into an 8 inch square (or 8 cup) baking dish. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons over the berries, covering the fruit evenly. Bake until the berries are bubbling and the topping is a golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating.

canal house cobbler

The finished cobbler, at the dinner party, right before we cut into it. Poor thing didn’t stand a chance… it was demolished in moments.

Monday, Monday– or more links about race relations, berries and NPR…

summer fruit

We are in prime summer fruit season, so go out and eat as many peaches and nectarines and berries and plums as you can possibly stand. Because soon it’ll be November, and we’ll be back to potatoes and squash…

This cartoon about our local police oh-no-wait highly armed military officers would be funny if it weren’t so true…

All of this race related violence makes this series (“From here I saw what happened and I cried”) by Carrie Mae Weems all the more poignant and relevant.

On a more optimistic note, it is prime berry season, so check out and then go make and then go eat these favorite berry recipes from Food52…

Speaking of fruit, it is also prime tomato season. At the risk of overloading you with recipes, take a gander at this tomato toast with basil cream cheese from the ladies of A Beautiful Mess if you’re feeling like you need some new sandwich style ideas.

Everything makes a comeback at some point. Even lard.

If you’re thinking about hitting the road for these last few weeks of summer, NPR has a new app for you that will help you take a personalized version of your beloved public radio station with you. It’s called NPR One, of course.

And, for no particular reason, here’s a little piece celebrating the humble and ubiquitous USB.

Yesterday, at some point…

photo © brooke williams, 2014

Most of the time, out of focus photographs require instant deletion. Especially when taken with your phone.

Sometimes, though, they are magic.

Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day. The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting. If not, feel free to ignore it.


MORK AND MINDY. Robin Williams as Mork in " Mork goes Erk". Original airdate February 8, 1979. Copyright ©1979 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive. Image is a screengrab.

Robin Williams as the hilarious alien Mork from Ork. Copyright ©1979 CBS Broadcasting Inc. from CBS Photo Archive.

Robin Williams’ suicide broke my heart. Not because I see it as a “waste” (which seems to be the thing most folks like to say when they hear about people taking their own lives) but because I imagine that he must have been in so much pain to have willingly left a loving family, his fans and his life behind. And I wouldn’t wish that kind of anguish on my worst enemy.

Lauren Bacall smoking

This morning’s sadness came in the form of the death of Lauren Bacall, an actress who was a style icon to so many of us, and not just in the way she dressed, but in the bold manner in which she led her life.

But then the more profound sadness came while listening to a story on NPR about the clearly unnecessary shooting of Michael Brown in a suburb of St Louis last week. “Overenthusiastic” police reactions to African American males seems to be the big thing this summer, and as such, the interview’s topic turned to the suffocation, by what looks to have been about 6 cops, of Staten Island resident Eric Garner. Listening to the audio tape of him screaming “I can’t breathe” over and over again made my heart burst apart.

Here’s the video if you want to see it. Though I warn you, it’s pretty harsh.

This blog does not usually go into politics and I promise to go back to the universe of happy summer recipes, great kids books and the beauty secrets of my friends in the next post, but I just want to ask you all to take a moment out and think about how we might make this a better world. How we might be just a little kinder to each other, and a little bit more understanding. Because if everyone were just a little less angry, we might all be able to see more clearly.