I’ve collaborated with Farmhouse Pottery for a giveaway to celebrate the start of the festive season and all those rituals, traditions and celebrations that go along with it. These last few years have marked the inception of yearly traditions of my own. With more than one holiday spent away from New England and extended family, I have had the occasion to distill down what it is I love most about the traditions I have been celebrating nearly all my life. It is no surprise that food and the preparation of a few particular family recipes are at the core of those things I hold dear. Both preparing and sitting down at the table with them marks the passage of another year – of both growth and change but also constants and a certain steadfastness. This time away has been a chance to incorporate those things I love most about celebrating and those which have made the days feel most festive to me.While New England is the provenance of my design sensibilities, I have taken bits and pieces, collecting them as I go, from everywhere I have lived and traveled. Ideas and inspirations for colors, textures, celebratory dishes and sensibilities. My appreciation for design has developed into a deep love of paring the old with the new in an organic and authentic way. I love the welcoming and satisfying look it creates, and the points of interest and discovery that naturally follow for those who interact with the design.
The first holiday I ever spent away from New England was with my now-husband & youngest brother. Just the three of us. And while we didn’t really have an agenda for the day, other than to relax on our one day away from work, I knew I wanted there to be a beautiful table. This idea of the table has become central in the creation of my own yearly traditions. It relish the creation and setting of the table each holiday – it has become something of a ritual right of the holiday in my festive celebrations. I was working full-time as a florist then and so spent the better part of a week combing the flower market, in addition to my regular client shopping, looking for just the right greens and peachy golden hued china mums go with the topaz & platinum flame stitch linen I had chosen from a rental company for our dinner. To this day, I still love the way that table turned out , but more importantly I love the memory of the three of us gathered around it in the kitchen of our tiny San Francisco apartment on Christmas Day chatting, eating and laughing so hard our bellies ached. When it comes to design and decor (and really every aspect of my life) I prefer to let the architecture of space and the quality of a few simple pieces be at the center of the design conversation. I find it helps create a calm welcoming environment, especially around the chaos of holidays. I apply this paired back approach to everything from wardrobe to decor to interiors to table design. I have such an affinity for how striking one strong concept or visual statement can be. Over the summer I had the opportunity to visit the lovely folks at Farmhouse Pottery and a chance to see the charming new Woodland Forrest collection; stunningly simple, with sculptural modern lines but all the heritage charm of handmade pieces. I was completely smitten – individually each tree is unique, as only a handmade object can be and I adore that beautifully organic quality they, quite literally, bring to the table. Completely inspired, I started imagining the desing for a beautiful winter table right then and there on the floor of the Farmhouse Pottery studio way back in July. Once I knew that I wanted to build a design around the Woodland Trees, I next chose the linens. Remembering that table all those years ago in San Francisco, I picked a patterned cloth, and neutral charcoal blue napkin. For all the complexity of the tablecloth, I still wanted the table to feel simple and balanced. I chose the pattern because I thought it was reminiscent of those bone-chilling swirling snowy New England winter nights and would look elegant next to the fire for our intimate dinner in the library. Using heritage flatware and plates I added just a sprig of seeded eucalyptus and two splendidly long tape candles into the mix. I especially love the subtle visual contrasts of the different trees and they way the ridges capture and reflect the candlelight. I have a particular fondness for balsam woodland trees and their strong architectural detail and love the strong lines they create. Instead of using flowers of greens, I added subtle texture and a bit of visual contrast with the addition of the wooden carved trees – they are great visual structure for the table.
These beautifully crafted Farmhouse Pottery Woodland Trees are certain to feature prominently in the making my own modern heritage and traditions for years to come. Full Giveaway details : You have the chance to win a Farmhouse Pottery gift bag containing Balsam ceramic and Evergreen wooden Trees – 5 pieces combined! To enter: Just comment on today’s Instagram post telling us your favorite festive tradition. Open to U.S. residents only. Ends 12/14/17. Winner will receive his or her gift bag within two weeks of the giveaway closing date.
this post is sponsored by Farmhouse Pottery. All opinion are my own.
Bread is my desert island food.
As in if I had to choose one thing to eat forever, should I find myself alone with only one food source on a desert island for the rest of days – It would be bread. It is one of those foods that nourishes not only my body but my soul. That sound of thick crust cracking as you tear off the end of a baguette or slice into well baked boule has a sort of magic about it.
On a recent rainy autumn weekend I found myself on a small island in the Pacific Northwest. Surrounded by the waters of the Sound and the colors of autumn. Hues of amber and ocher just beginning to dot the dense evergreen forests and a welcomed chill in the air, just right for lighting fires in the wood stove and layering on a cozy jumper. The smell of slowly baking bread ensnaring us all in our little weekend home.
So, there I was on my island just south of Seattle, not marooned or alone nor in a climate that could be called tropical or considered desert but happily there was plenty of delicious bread. Beautiful La Brea Bakery bread baking away in the oven as six members of the food blogging community and I cooked up a storm. Armed with a handful of newly developed recipes and a curated selection of fresh artisan La Brea Bakery breads (in the most stunning array of shapes, colors, textures) we made a little magic together over that weekend.
In the course of three days we prepared meals, styled tables, gathered, ate, gleaned inspiration, cultivated conversation and photographed it all. Each of the seven of us prepared a recipe for the weekend – mine, for a Smoky Aubergine Spread can be found lower down in the post and you can find the other six amazing recipes from our meals through the links here – Natalie’s Coconut French Toast with Poached Apples and Pecans. Sasha’s recipe for Fall Panzanella with Roasted Squash and Creamy Lemon Pepper Dressing, Shelly’s recipe for Roasted Grape Crostini with Chevré and Rosemary,Trisha’s recipe for Shakshuka with Chevré & Fresh Herbs. Alanna’s Golden Vegetable Chickpea Minestrone with Lemon Parsley Oil and Eva’s Apple Bread Pudding with Caramel Drizzle.
It was a weekend full of camaraderie and living well. Taking the time to savor the simple, to be intentional and find the elegance in the everyday- elevating it beyond the mundane and repetitive. For me a huge part of living well revolves around good food and being together at the table. Good foods start with intentionality and its one of the things I love most about La Brea Bakery breads – they are crafted according to slow-process artisan methods. They take the time needed to let the breads develop using honored tradition, the original starter – circa 1989! and a slow rise – it takes at least 24 hours for each bread from start to finish. And the result is all that thick crunchy crust goodness you could ever want in a loaf of bread.
For my Smoky Aubergine spread – it is best served with La Brea Bakery’s Cranberry Walnut loaf, a slightly unexpected pairing but I love the hint of sharp sweetness from the cranberry in the bread and it’s gorgeous closed-crumb texture is a perfect counterpoint for this heartier spread. If you don’t have a grill you can still make this recipe by roasting the aubergine over the flame on your gas stove top or placing them on a baking sheet and putting them under the broiler.Just watch them carefully and remember to turn them frequently.*Thank you to La Brea Bakery for sponsoring this weekend and making this post possible. All opinions are my own
Smoky Aubergine Spread
- 2 loaves of La Brea Bakery Cranberry Walnut
- 2 medium-sized aubergine (about 250/300g each)
- 1/2 cup tahini + 2 tbsp
- 3/4 cup Crème fraîche
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic (paste or grated on the microplaner)
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp shallots
- ¼ cup each parsley and dill
- ¼ tsp honey
- salt to taste
- 2 Tbsp toasted pepitas roughly chopped
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1 Tbsp Za’atar
- 1 Tbsp dill fronds
- Preheat the oven to 375F (190C)
- Prick each aubergine a few times, then char the outside evenly by placing them directly on hot grill, turn them until the eggplants are uniformly charred on the outside.
- While aubergine are charing add shallots, garlic, sour cream and Crème fraîche to a small bowl and let stand with a light pinch of salt
- Slice aubergine in-half the long way, salt lightly and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until they’re completely soft and most of the liquid has evaporated; a poke from a paring knife poke should meet no resistance. Remove from the oven
- While the aubergine is cooling, place tahini and lemon juice in a blender or food processor and blend on high about 30 seconds. Then add Crème fraîche mixture and honey and blend another 30 seconds.
- Add the dill, parsley olive oil and blend 30 seconds more or until the olive oil is incorporated
- Scrape the pulp from the skins. Puree the pulp in a blender or food processor with the other ingredients – it should be relatively smooth but still with some texture to the aubergine and all ingredients should be incorporated into the mix.
- Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Let is stand at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator or make up to a day ahead before serving.
- To serve sprinkle with chopped pepitas, sumac, Za’atar and perhaps some additional herbs
- Serve with quarter slices of La Brea Bakery Cranberry Walnut Loaf and/or Olive Loaf
On a particularly early morning, I found myself sitting in one of London’s east end restaurants working through details of a fast approaching and fairly high pressure event. I must have been the only person in the restaurant at that time and I distinctly remember waiting outside in the drizzle for someone to unlocked the door and let me inside. This particular space is one with the most inspired light even on this misty wooly grey morning and I took a few minutes to admire it as it fell softly over the backs of minimalist birch chairs and polished concrete floors. Being so early, the space was just a hair shy of warm, the ovens having only just begun their day’s labor and coldness from the night before still hanging around ankle level. A familiar conversation ensued soon after and I ordered a cup of black coffee – it felt perfectly austere given my surroundings and I imagined it would also be hottest thing on their early morning menu. continue reading
Some of my earliest memories are sitting with my mum, gram and aunt drinking tea; always bag in, never sugar possibly a splash of milk. There wasn’t anything fancy or particularly ceremonial about it, no sliver tea pots or cups and saucers and certainly not a crustless sandwich in sight, but still it always felt exceptional. The four of us together in one of our kitchens chatting and thumbing through recipes and design magazines with steaming hot cups of tea in hand. Overtime, these tea filled afternoons together have become a ritual; our ritual. continue reading
I subscribe to love.
I subscribe to love with all its swiftness, fleet-of-foot, deep roots, finely feathered wings, quiet gentle tenderness, wild abandon, respectful, transcendent and humble persistence. I suppose I would say that what I really subscribe to is not love but more the spirit of love, its genuineness and possibility. When I stop to think about it, I am gobsmacked at the very many ways love is able to manifest and delighted by the differences in the kinds of loves we encounter. So I think its a wonderful idea to pause for a moment and celebrate the loves, in all their vast and varied qualities in your life.
Before the night is out many a cheerful glass of champagne will be raised to toast the arrival of the new year and fondly send off the year just past.
I love this global celebration of time. This night dedicated to reflection and optimism. Stripping away the arbitrary pressure of resolutions, there seems something very special indeed about a night where a ripple of optimism makes its way around the globe. Behind the bubbles, the sparkles and tinsel is the brightness of positivism, the buoyancy of happiness. However, Its not just about the exhilaration of looking to the year ahead, but also about finding the silver linings in the year we have just finished. In a world that constantly encourages us to reach ahead, to move forward with an ever fervered pace, I can’t help but relish the moments to glance back. To turn around to see, in plain view, the path the year has cut sprawling out behind me, twisting and winding to me to the exact spot I’m standing when the hands point to twelve. continue reading
It seems that many of my holiday traditions are wrapped up in the places from which my family hail, going back generations and to all manner of countries. Traditions and foods transplanted from our great and great-great grandparents. Though I would expect some sticky points in the translations have occurred over the years, in general, my holidays rely largely on the flavours of elsewhere.
This year,I wanted to add something to our holiday table and traditions which celebrated where we are right now; in this moment, season and of this place. Oysters are of course all about provience, about the place from which they hail. Luckily these chilly east coast waters produce some lovely varieties. Even with just a few miles between them, oysters have the ability to taste different and distinct from their neighbors. This partially explains my great affinity for them, the other being that they are simply delicious. With winter’s short days and plummeting temperatures the waters have turned truly frigid, making it the perfect time for plump New England oysters. continue reading
Balance; both the idea of it and what it actually means in practice has been rolling through my thoughts recently. Like a stone with rough pocked edges, my mind seems wanton to tumble and turn balance into something smooth and polished; digestible, achievable. continue reading
Between the dark and light of the early morning, in slippered feet I stood; flour jar and batter bowl at hand. A warm pine floor dark beneath me and cool stone countertops reflecting back the first bits of daylight. I slipped the heavy linen apron from its hook and over my head, smoothing its front, ritually pushing my hands into each of its pockets before beginning my task. Into the bowl I measured, sifted, pinched & stirred together what will, with any luck, become the start of a dark sourdough bread. It will be coaxed into existence over the next 5 days through a common sort magic, simple but deeply seeded.
On this morning and for the last few, I have been feeling an overwhelming sense of calm. I can only think that it is coming from a place of general contentedness, a feeling of some form of happiness which I have not felt for a time. What I know to be different is how good it feels to finally be back standing in a kitchen of my own after so long.
The thought that the two are connected, this contented calm and having a kitchen of my own again, hadn’t dawned on me until recently. Spurred by the comment of a friend under my image on Instagram, she wrote “one thing about being away is that you miss your own kitchen”.
And this feeling of missing ones own kitchen is something I have known rather poignantly recently. As you may know, a few months ago we, my husband and i, packed up our London life. It was sent one way around the world as we went the other. It was a great adventure, perhaps one of a life time, thought I rather hope not, but the one thing I perpetually missed, that I longed for in this unmoored period was my kitchen. I did my best to mimic some daily rhythm which felt natural to me but how well can one accomplish this in the kitchens of strangers? continue reading