Good Writes and Reads 2012

fav writes reads 2012

I’m not going to say this year flew by quickly. That’s what everyone says at the end of December. But I will say, looking back at the last 12 months, that I’m overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of life a person lives in one year. The trips, the work, the conversations, the movies, the driving, the meals: time keeps coming, and we keep spending it, until, one day, it doesn’t. Just like that. Years flash through our fingers like sand, pouring quickly, quickly, and we never know when it will stop, so instead we live like it won’t, and yet there’s this reality, ever present, that there’s nothing any of us can do to slow things down. Another year is gone, and here we are, standing face to face with the next one, considering, the way we do at the close of December, even if only for a moment, what we will do with it.

So in the spirit of looking back—for a better way of looking forward—and inspired by a post I wrote at the end of 2009, I’m bringing you a roundup of articles from the past year—12 posts I wrote and 12 posts I read in 2012 that stuck with me. Enjoy! And here’s to 2013 (!). May we choose to be wholly present and intentional in it.

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Merry Christmas! (+ A Blogger Recipe Roundup!)

Merry Christmas

Christmas is always the time of year when our cup feels especially full, what with the visits to family and gifts being exchanged, but, in fact, it’s our entire month that’s been filled with good gifts. Around here, December has meant cloudy Sunday afternoons walking around downtown Franklin, cozy nights doodling and watching Christmas movies, trimming a tree and, now this week, trips to Ohio and Chicago. What’s more, as 2012 comes to a close, we’re looking back at a long list of good meals, many of which were inspired by friends in the blogging world.

So as we wish the happiest of Christmases to each of you, we’re also including a roundup of recipes we’ve tried this year and loved—scroll to the bottom of the post for links!

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Favorite [Packaged] Snacks

favorite packaged snacks |

It’s almost Christmas! While we’re hitting the road for Ohio, we thought we might share a roundup of some of our favorite packaged snack-type products (proof that we don’t make everything we eat). When we’re road-tripping like we are this weekend, when we’re out for the night and want a snack, when we’re stuffing stockings, when we’re looking for a special treat that we don’t want to spend an hour making, it’s usually one of these products we reach for, and, while none of these companies has sent us their products free, paid us to promote them or in any other way requested that we mention them here, we’re sharing them because we think they’re just that good*. All made of whole foods, with short ingredients lists you can pronounce and easily recognize, they’re also the kind of snack foods you don’t have to feel any guilt about choosing.

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Instagram Book Giveaway from Artifact Uprising!

Artifact Uprising Giveaway |

I’ve got to be honest with you and say my thoughts are still with Newtown today, but I’m bringing you a fun, light, pretty giveaway from a company I like that has a gorgeous aesthetic anyway because, as Kathryn White put it so well yesterday, “there is a place for the trivial, the normal, the happy humdrum of daily life—even in great sadness.” Even as we weep with those who weep and even as we seek evidences of light, we also dwell in our little worlds and look for ways to be light, in big things and small, in petitions and days of silence and blog posts and prayer and hugging our families and offering a hand to hold, to look for ways to call out truth and goodness and beauty and love, to look for ways to give and to help and to point to the lovely. This is our pointing to the lovely, right now, today.

If you already follow us on Instagram, you know how we love using the network to share moments of beauty from our everyday lives—what we’re eating for breakfast, the light in our front yard, flowers on the table, golden fire in the sky. Since we started using Instagram even before we were married, and since it was the first place where we posted a photo of us on our wedding day (on the cover above!), it was only natural that it would be an Instagram album that we’d want to get printed after a year of marriage, chronicling our first 12 months together as husband and wife. Tim did all the legwork, bless his heart, uploading photos from my phone to the computer, picking which 40 to feature, organizing them into a book at Artifact Uprising, a company whose tagline is “inspired by the disappearing beauty of the tangible” (!!); and when the 8.5-inch square book arrived, you guys, I could not believe how good it looked.

In fact, we like our Instagram album’s thick pages, textured feel and quality binding so much, we asked Artifact Uprising if they’d be willing to give one of these albums* away to one of you—and they said yes. Instructions for entering the giveaway are posted below!

*Even if you don’t have an Instagram account, you can win the giveaway—the prize is good for one of the 8.5″ albums or the equivalent monetary value towards any other Artifact Uprising product, like their gorgeous wood calendars, for example, or another softcover photo album.

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Lemon Almond Coconut Macaroons

lemon almond coconut macaroons |

Edit: I wrote this post before the Newtown tragedy Friday afternoon, but, reading back over it now, I’m struck by how much I need the reminder all over again—to look for the good in people helping, praying, loving; to recognize the darkness that brings murder and heartbreak and how it is so not at all the voice of Light. It feels wrong not to acknowledge the pain that the affected families of children and teachers are facing today. We wish we could do more. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Newtown.

Some days, I’m overwhelmed by the lack of love in the world: the snubbing, the name-calling, the pushing, the overlooking, the thoughtlessness human beings show to one another.

For as many of you as relate to a genuine curiosity and interest in other people like I mentioned in the last post, there are others who don’t, who never turn their eyes outward, who come to the party and talk but never listen, who sit near you at a table and stare sullenly ahead, who learn your name and job title and put you into a box marked Understood.

I’d like to throw all such offenders into a Them box, one decidedly Not-Me, but then the thought flashes through my mind, while I sit across from strangers at a car dealership this past week, that I should try to talk to them, show some kindness, and I don’t; I share dinner with a friend and know I could encourage him, and, instead, I’m quiet; we run into friends, and, instead of entering into their lives, I’m anxious to get back to work; I go through entire days of regular life with my husband without once stopping to consider and tell him how good I know he is to me.

lemon almond coconut macaroons |

And other days, I’m overwhelmed by the love there is in the world.

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Coconut Milk Mexican Flan (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

Coconut Milk Mexican Flan |

I go to used bookstores for the same reason I look into windows when we’re driving down residential streets at night: I like to imagine the people inside. The same way I fix my gaze on the warm glow of a table illuminated by candlelight or the man who’s sitting in his recliner all alone, I pick up a hardcover, tracing over the handwriting, wondering about the person who underlined that passage or the reader who signed her name in this front flap.

This might be what I love about the first-edition copy of The Art of Mexican Cooking, written by Jan Aaron and Georgine Sachs Salom, that I found at McKay Used Book Store Friday Night. Published in 1965, this beauty has all the earmarks of another era, one in which American women still wore skirts and aprons to make dinner and in which Mexican food (along with other ethnic cuisines) was just beginning to enter the conversation.

Art of Mexican Cooking |

There are hand-drawn illustrations at the division pages, created by artist Dierdre Stanforth, the same woman who did illustrations for a Betty Crocker cookbook two years later and for books on New Orleans after that. I’d never thought much about book illustrations until recently, when we went and made an ebook and hired the amazing Rebekka Seale to create the cover—now I notice them everywhere I look: on blogs, on Pinterest, when I’m flipping through the thick pages of my new vintage book.

Over the last few nights, reading The Art of Mexican Cooking before bed, usually out loud to Tim, along with continually remarking that “This entire recipe is a paragraph! One paragraph! These directions kill me!,” I’ve also been thinking about the woman who drew the maps in the front and back pages and who sketched two large pots of soup in front of Mexican tiling.

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Joanna Linberg’s Cajun Sweet Potato Fries

cajun sweet potato fries |

If my life were a novel, the way I found Joanna Linberg’s blog, Honey & Salt would be a classic example of foreshadowing. Picture it: November 2010. I’m posting some scattered thoughts on thankfulness (or, really, unthankfulness) here at the blog. Three days later, unbeknownst to me, a magazine editor from Iowa links to that post in a roundup at her site, sending a pingback to my email inbox, landing me on her thoughtful piece of the Internet; I start reading her blog; we become friends; we visit each other; we cry in my kitchen; we write letters; and now, here I am, bringing you a sweet potato recipe from the woman I would now call one of the most thankful people I know.

You probably remember Joanna—the Joanna of Brad and Joanna, the friends we went to see in St. Louis last month? She could just as easily be called the Full of Wisdom Joanna or the Writes Beautiful Letters Joanna or the Joanna Who Points Me to Truth and Gratitude Every Time We Talk. But, I suspect, to you, she will quickly become the Joanna Who Makes Cajun Sweet Potato Fries, and nothing else will matter, at least after you try this recipe that is, because, people, it’s something else.

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