Parsley Pesto Pizza + Squash Apple Pizza with Einkorn Crusts

birthday weekend pizza | foodloveswriting.com

There are people who don’t believe in making a big deal about birthdays, but I’m not one of them—and I have my brother to thank.

Adam in Nashville | FoodLovesWriting.com

My brother, Adam, who is two years and two months younger than I am (but if you heard us together, you’d swear he were the one who’s older), came here to see us last week, arriving around 2 p.m. on his birthday Wednesday and staying through Saturday night. The thing you have to understand about my brother and birthdays is he is kind of the king of celebrating them.

When I turned 21, he took me to a Coach store and told me to pick out one thing I wanted, any one thing, and he would buy it for me—choosing a purse in a store so far outside my price range made me feel like the richest person in the world, and that’s a feeling you never forget. Another year, he surprised me with a party at Ravinia, this outdoor park near Chicago where Tony Bennett was playing for the night. Since then, there have been trips to Maine and, when I was dating Tim, a trip to Nashville, and every year, the building anticipation that my birthday would mean something special and something fun.

It’s his influence that has turned my mom’s February birthday into a family holiday in which we all take off work to do whatever she wants to do, which, last year, meant all three of my family members flying down here to visit together for the first time. It’s his influence that makes me vote for spending Thanksgiving (and my dad’s corresponding birthday) in Chicago every year so I can sit by my dad and tell him why he’s cool. And it’s his influence that makes me want to celebrate anyone I love’s birthday the same way, by saying, Name what you want to do and we’ll do it! I just think it’s such a great gesture, submitting your preferences to someone else’s as a way of celebrating, as a way of showing them love.

So that said, you can understand why, when my brother comes to visit us for his birthday, we want to pull out all the stops.

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Ebook Writing + Poached Eggs over Toast

iPhoneography

I listened to a podcast interview of Sara Kate from the Kitchn this week on Joy the Baker’s “We’re about to Be Friends” show, and, in it, Sara Kate compares the immediacy of a photograph to the long work of writing. She says, from her perspective as a writer, there’s something so satisfying about taking a photograph and, those times when you get it right, knowing you’ve got it; it’s a very different kind of creative work than, say, writing, for example, in which you sometimes have to wrestle and fight and rewrite and pull out the words to say before you reach that same satisfying feeling.

egg | foodloveswriting.com

I was listening to the interview while I was in the kitchen working some dough together. And a few days later, while I sautéed vegetables, I thought of it again. When you go to the kitchen and combine some ingredients into something new, there’s a satisfaction in the immediacy, kind of like taking the right photograph, especially compared to the slower rewards of writing a long project.

chicken broth | foodloveswriting.com

Think about it. Wake up in the morning, nothing prepared, go to the stove and heat up broth; crack an egg into a bowl; and slide it in the warm pot for a few minutes. Scoop out the poached eggs onto toast, shave some Pecorino on top, sprinkle fresh thyme. That’s it, you’re done, there before you is your work completed. It’s nice. It’s comforting.

Writing an ebook, well, that’s another story. True, it’s not that different from writing a blog post. It’s longer and it’s more planned out, but it starts with the same process of opening up a Word document or a WordPress draft, putting words to paragraphs, writing your thoughts to be read. You may have an initial plan for what you want to say; you may have no idea. You sit there, you and the keyboard, willing the words to come, but knowing that, sometimes, they won’t. You also wonder, after some words are finally sitting there, if what you’re writing is any good.

heirloom eggs

I started the ebook project in early July, just before our trip to see family and visit the Wisconsin town where I used to spend weeks of summer as a kid. The ebook was Tim’s idea, something I never would have done on my own, maybe because of fear of commitment or fear of failure or a form of perfectionism or something else. But early this summer, he did me the great favor of forcing me to consider the ebook, something I could sit down and work on right now, and when push came to shove, I knew he was right. And so it was on that trip, while we were relaxing in the cool and the quiet of an Internet-free cabin, that I wrote the first chapter.

I remember looking at it, reading it to Tim, thinking, so this is how people write things like books? They just, write? And then, wow, there’s more value in blogging than people give it credit for. (I mean, seriously, have you read blogs these days? They’re good.)

pecorino

Of course, I know what you’re thinking, the difference between blogs and books is not as small as I want to make it—Books are edited and revised. Books go through some approval processes. Books are longer and more involved and often require more investment. I wrote an ebook, and it’s sort of a fine line saying if it’s more like a blog or a book at its heart.

All I know is that I had a first draft finished by mid-August, after many long work dates across from Tim at coffee shops and Saturday mornings holed up in the dark office/second bedroom where we rarely spend any time. I sent the draft to a few writers/editors/friends and waited. Tim and I went to Gulf Shores. I turned 30. Feedback came in; I worked at the book again.

poached eggs over toast

Right now, from where I type this post, the ebook is done. It’s edited. It’s formatted. All that’s missing are a few small design touches and it will launch. But right now, from where I type this post, we’re a long way from early July. We’re also hours of work (and yes, tears!) from that first moment when I looked at Tim and said, OK. Let’s do this.

And even though four months is nothing like the two years (or longer) typically involved in printed, published books, contrast it with the steps involved toward making a morning meal like this one. Idea to concept, we’re talking 20 minutes, tops.

In these days leading up to the book publishing, I think you can guess where you’ll find me.

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Chocolate Torte with Chocolate Avocado Mousse (gluten-free, maple-sweetened)

Holding Pumpkin | FoodLovesWriting.com

Fall is to seasons what blogging is to writing: easy to love. While of course I wouldn’t want a world without spring flowers or summer daylight—any more than a world without Jane Austen or Jhumpa Lahiri—I have to say that stepping outside to a golden world of falling leaves and pumpkin patches and cardigans is the kind of thing that puts an easy smile on my face, very much like sharing little windows into our life here on the blog, reading windows into other people‘s lives and, mostly, getting to interact with all of you about it.

Fall in Nashville | FoodLovesWriting.com

I started this blog in 2008, a year out of grad school, working 9-5 in an office job where I wrote descriptions of the houses people were trying to sell. Before that, I’d done some freelance work for newspapers and magazines, just small projects here and there, because I knew I wanted to write but I didn’t know if I could, much less about what. And over the last four years, while I’ve written to you about my grandma and quitting my job and moving and getting engaged and an October wedding and the way I am hungry for truth and beauty, this blog has been the place for finding out.

When we made the announcement about the book last week, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

When I think about launching it soon, I don’t know quite what to expect about that, either. Part of me wants to apologize—it’s just an ebook—and part of me wants to downplay it—so, in case no one reads our story, it will be less of a blow.

But the truth is, honestly, the ebook is a lot like this blog, and this blog has been such a source of joy and friendship and encouragement over the last four years, I’m ashamed of myself for not celebrating it.

We’re launching an ebook, you guys!

I love the story it contains the way I love fall and roadside stands of mums and huge vintage trucks stuffed with orange pumpkins. I love it the way I love walking outside on an October Saturday, soaking up the beauty around me.

And, while I’ve been writing and rewriting it the last several months, I’ve been really, really hoping you’ll love it, too.

pumpkins | FoodLovesWriting.com

We’ll be sharing more information about the book in the coming post (or posts), and just thinking about some of that sharing gets me so excited, I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve, all fidgety and bursting inside. But for the meantime, here are a few things:

First, it’s an ebook because an ebook is a format that’s fast, convenient, affordable (to make and to buy) and accessible for you. It has allowed us to put together our story in a manner of months, and in the way that feels right to us. Publishing an ebook is a way to share more of our journey with you, and, as I was saying at the beginning of this post, that’s always what this site has been about anyway.

Picnic Torte | FoodLovesWriting.com

Second, the ebook tells about how the blog started, how Tim and I met through it, what struggles and beauties we found along the way; it also tells a story much bigger than that, about hope and fear and learning to let go.

chocolate torte | FoodLovesWriting.com

Last thing, for now, is that when we made the video last week, as you know, it was over a picnic lunch in the park, one in which we hauled dishes and linens and baskets of food to a concrete table surrounded by tall trees and falling leaves, and where we ate, among other things, a chocolate torte made of an avocado mousse so creamy and rich, I almost didn’t want to post the video on Friday, but this torte instead.

chocolate torte and chocolate avocado mousse | foodloveswriting.com

The crust is mostly maple syrup, coconut oil and nuts; the mousse is mostly avocados and maple syrup; and the combination is so easy to love, like blogging and like autumn and like long afternoons in the sun, you won’t believe it—and that’s whether or not you’re eating it beneath a canopy of maple leaves in the mid-afternoon.

Today, I leave you with this torte. More soon.

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Q & A Post: Because You Asked…

…Tim and I sat outside in the beautiful October sunlight on Wednesday and made you a quick little (five-minute) video. In it, we tell you a little bit more about our daily lives, never explain where we are or why there’s a spread of food before us while we do (it was a picnic! and Tim was shooting another video for his day job!) as well as, spoiler alert!, make an exciting announcement about something big coming to the blog soon. (!!!!)

Here’s hoping you’re somewhere where it’s OK to turn the volume on

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First Anniversary + Basil Shortbread Cookies (gluten-free, grain-free)

us | FoodLovesWriting.com

When you first get married, it’s wonderful and it’s strange. Part of you has this sense that becoming a new family only makes sense, like it’s the way things were always supposed to be, like, thank God, this person you love so much is now joined to you the way you’ve longed for him to be. Yet right alongside that joy, simultaneously, even as you know those things, another part of you has to constantly catch herself, realizing, oh, there’s another person who needs to be consulted before I make any big decisions or changes or future plans; all of your struggles become our struggles and his pain, our pain; one or both of you faces illness or discouragement or deep hurt and brings it into us; you, together, hit points where you don’t know what to do; sometimes, even, you fight.

dinner | FoodLovesWriting.com

Because, being straight-up honest with you, there are days when marriage is so over-the-moon easy that you find yourself saying things like you think your heart could burst, even when beforehand you would’ve said those expressions were cheesy and ridiculous. But, there are also days of painful conversations or long fights or moments when you look at each other, in tears, arguing about something that feels so important you’re willing to push each other away. Sometimes those days are the same days.

knoxville | foodloveswriting.com
downtown knoxville | foodloveswriting.com
smokies | foodloveswriting.com

Tim and I talked about these things, about marriage, the last two days in Knoxville, celebrating our first full year of being husband and wife, constantly recalling the one-year-ago memories of a rehearsal dinner and wedding speeches and a table of cookies and a too-good-to-be-true honeymoon. Either one of us would tell you that we still look at each other and think, genuinely, that we can’t believe the other one exists, that we fit each other so well it makes us marvel, kind of like looking at the mountains or a star-studded night sky. We feel so overwhelmingly thankful for each other and yet, still, we’re prone to take each other for granted, in the same way that we’re prone to go days without thinking twice about our health or our families or jobs we’ve been given that put money in the bank account and food in the fridge.

fall | foodloveswriitng.com
leaves | foodloveswriting.com
Basil Shortbread | FoodLovesWriting.com

The honest truth is that thinking about this scares me. Intentionality in relationships—marriage, parents, roommates, siblings, friends—doesn’t happen naturally for long. Just one year into marriage, I already see how much easier it is to be lazy with Tim than it is to put thought into knowing him, and that because of this, sometimes, being lazy is exactly what I pick.

Taking Photos in the Smokies

But while we got away this weekend, just him and me, walking through streets of old Knoxville architecture, driving through golden leaves in the Smoky Mountains, sitting next to each other and asking hard questions and doing the work of relationship, of long talks and clarification and trying to explain thoughts and feelings, I tasted that real joy that comes from learning what it means to love, and I thought, again, how relationships are the hardest but best parts of living.

golden leaves | foodloveswriting.com

I taste it in marriage, I taste it in friendship, I taste it in the inward struggle I feel when someone does me evil and I try to return good. It makes me think of what C.S.Lewis wrote when he said:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

I think there’s this constant struggle in human nature, although we each face it in different ways, of whether or not to let people in and to work to know them and be known. “To love at all is to be vulnerable,” Lewis says, and to be vulnerable is to open yourself up to hurt. But the thing is, even though that’s true, to love is always better, always. Because only in letting yourself be vulnerable do you let yourself experience the best parts of life—in marriage, in friendship, with strangers you’re getting to know.

sitting at the park | foodloveswriting.com

And of all the things marriage is teaching me, this is one of the best.

(More Knoxville photos in our Facebook album here.)

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Pumpkin Cake + Pumpkin Trifle

Exactly one year ago today, Tim and I were up in the Chicago suburbs, driving out to the DuPage County courthouse to lift up our hands and solemnly swear that we were who we said we were and get the nice lady in the sea of cubicles to hand us our marriage license, our marriage license! I remember walking out of that building, into the crowded parking lot, hand in hand with Tim and thinking, our marriage license! It’s official now! Not just in terms of a giant dress in the closet and a chalkboard seating chart, but, as in, according to the government, we’re actually about to do this thing. Three days from now, we’re getting hitched!

day before wedding | foodloveswriting.com

I know I’ve said this here before, but, seriously, there are so many more details involved with planning a wedding than I ever would have imagined, and, when you plan your wedding fast, like we did in six months, you learn to scrap a lot of those details in the name of staying sane—like a wedding cake maybe. We had pretty much ruled it out, thinking that there’d already be a full meal and a full spread of a cookie table, so who needed a cake?

My mom, that’s who.

Listen, she’d been a champ about a lot of wedding things she’d originally seen a different way: my not having a veil, my seeing Tim before the wedding, no little boxes of Jordan almonds. But the one thing she violently disagreed on was not having a wedding cake. Cake is tradition. Cake tastes good. Plus, and this is where she hit my soft spot, cakes are the thing my grandma used to make for weddings as a caterer. We have these amazing black-and-white photos of her tall, tiered versions, usually with one of those vintage bride-and-groom sets on top, and oh, you guys, I can’t tell you how much I wish she could have still been alive to make mine last October.

Caroline

So we talked about it and we talked about it, and we agreed: the next best thing to having your grandma, the one who taught you how to bake and love food, make your wedding cake is having your mom, who fed you before you knew she was feeding you, do it, especially when your mom is the kind of person who takes such intense pleasure in being the one to provide a meal.

It would be my gift to her to have one, her gift to me to make it, and, in the process, everyone would have some cake.

 

So months beforehand, Mom tested pumpkin cake recipes, almost giving up the idea once or twice. Turns out there are several truly bad cake recipes out there in the world and, not every recipe translates into three or four tiers.

But come our wedding day, her work was a thing of beauty. And that afternoon, she let the caterers transport the tall, dark, spiced cake topped with homemade cream cheese frosting down to the tent. It was simple, like us, no frills or iced flowers, and it was sweet and, honestly, I liked it quite a lot—partly because it tasted good, mostly because she made it for me.

Last week, remembering that cake and the work Mom put into it, I emailed her and asked for the recipe.

cake topper | FoodLovesWriting.com

She sent ingredients.

Do you have directions, too? I wrote back.

She said cream the wet with sugar; mix the dry; combine it all.

Baking times? I wrote back. Size of pan? Oven temp?

And then the correspondence became a confusing, winding email chain of 9X13 pans and guessing on oven temperatures and the promise of a different, much better pumpkin cake recipe, which, if she had it to do over again, is the one she would have used for the wedding last year.

pumpkin trifle | foodloveswriting.com

She had me laughing, and frustrated, and aware that when I talk to her I am looking at my future, and so an hour or two later, there I was, mixing ingredients in the kitchen like my mother’s daughter who was her mother’s daughter, according to a recipe she got from a Chicago news reporter or a lady at her old church or somewhere else, it’s still unclear, pouring it all into a greased and floured rectangle pan, letting the warm and autumn smell of it fill our kitchen.

Pumpkin Trifle | FoodLovesWriting.com

I may not have wanted a wedding cake, but I’m glad we had one anyway, and I’m glad I made a version of it last week—moist and pumpkiny and wonderful layered with homemade whipped cream and nuts—so that when I looked at it, like I looked at my mom’s in a big white tent, I could think, heart full, that more than anything else?

pumpkin trifle | foodloveswriting.com

my grandma would have loved this.

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Cozy Day at Home + Caramelized Apples and Onions

Caramelized Apples + Onions | FoodLovesWriting.com

The first time I met Tim, he said something in passing about how he’d much prefer a night in, at home, to endless social activity, one party and get-together after another, and I couldn’t believe how much he sounded like me. They say it’s the opposites who are the ones to attract, but, almost one year into marriage, all I have to say is that it sure is nice to share life with someone who also finds pleasure in picking a new Netflix movie or testing orangettes or reading side by side, before falling asleep at night.

Making Tea | FoodLovesWriting.comfall day at home | foodloveswriting.com

If it weren’t for the great enjoyment we both also find in hosting big dinner parties and attending outdoor gatherings and making meaningful connections with other human beings, and mostly the growing desire we both have to stretch outside our comfort zones and love, I wonder just how easy it would be for us to settle in at home, something brewing on the stove and, stay there, content.

Kinfolk and Tea | FoodLovesWriting.com

It’s something we’ve thought so deliberately about recently that, in an effort to find ways to love other people besides each other, we’ve been filling our social calendar fuller than it’s ever been in our married life. We’ve been hosting and attending and gathering and joining, and it’s been good, all of it, delighting in conversations with friends new and old, hearing how people are doing, laughing and crying and learning, seeing how much there is yet to know.

But still, in the midst of it, I have to say there remains something equally special about those quiet, cozy days (or even hours) at home, the kind where there’s nothing much on the agenda besides laundry and reading and making dinner—and the more rare these chunks of time become, the more precious they feel.

Pound of Apples | FoodLovesWriting.com

Fall is good at reminding us of this. As the days darken and chill and we turn on our heaters for the first time in months, there’s an unspoken push towards blankets and cocoa and the comfort of a warm kitchen.

Caramelized Apples + Onions | FoodLovesWriting.com

October beckons us to roast and to caramelize, to slow-cook and to stew. There’s nothing quite like coming in from the cold to the smell of something brewing, and that’s never more true than with today’s easy apples and onions dish.

Bowl of Apples + Onions | FoodLovesWriting.com

By the time the onions are soft and translucent, your home will smell as good as Thanksgiving dinner; and, standing above the stove, your hair pulled back and your house slippers on, the house quiet and still, save for sizzling, that right there will be so good, so rich, all you can do is give thanks for such a moment and, enjoy.

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