sara’s roasted carrots with za’atar

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I am a fan of second projects.

All through these last few years that I’ve been working on my own little second project, there’s been a phenomenon that’s come to my attention. No one tells you about it the first time around, but it seems to hit a whole lot of people who have the good fortune to get to write and publish a book, or to record an album, or really to do any big artistic project and meet some measure of success before trying to do it all over again. And although I’ve heard this from a lot of people, I only really know my own experience, so I’ll go from there. It seems to go something like this:

The first project is hard because working on anything is hard, but there’s a magic and an unreality to it. If you’ve wanted to do something and then you actually get to do it and maybe even get paid to do it, the process of creating and putting out that first project can be a little fairytale-like. And because the goal has been accomplished, that is to do that thing,  all the other stuff is just frosting. When my first book was about to come out, I felt that if I sold 10 copies, if I just had that book to hold in my hands, I was good. That was all I wanted.

But then we have the second project.

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how to make just enough cake

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At our house, cake season stretches from February through April, from Rosie’s birthday through Sadie’s (with Joey’s in between). It parallels dirty-piles-of-icy snow season, which is fortunate, because the cake helps.

I’m not particularly good at making birthday cakes, but I love to do it anyway. I like frostings with not much sugar, so often one cake slides and swerves off the other, and no matter whether I do a crumb coat or not, there are always crumbs. I also am no good with the piping bag, even through I’ve been shown how to do roses over and over. But I think a lot of making birthday cakes is just having the moxie to make the thing, actually pile one on top of the other, stick some candles in it and maybe even sing at the same time as you carry it across the kitchen. Any one can do it.

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this and that

IMG_6272Today–a few things.

This weekend, we hauled ourselves (complete with kids and puppy) up to Montreal for Joey’s birthday. His one big request for the last year was to get to the PDC Sugar Shack in St. Eustache, Quebec, and we accomplished it. If you’re one for eating adventures, I highly recommend it. The only caveat is that you have to send them an email for a reservation in a tiny little window of time. For the maple season, you must email them at midnight on December 1 (set your calendars now), and for the apple season, it’s midnight on April 1, which, lo and behold, is tonight! Worth the drive and every penny.

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a few thoughts about the internet

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First… Kristin in Franklin County, you won the Fire Cider! Just tell me where to send the goods. And thank you to everyone who entered.

Last week, I had the great fortune to spend a week at one of my new favorite places, the Spruceton Inn. It was a really great week. I got loads done and came back with some new inspiration, too. There was so much about the week that made good, but one of the lucky factors is that being 3 miles down a dead end road in the Catskills, the Spruceton Inn has very little internet and no cell service.

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butter braised collards with fire cider (and a giveaway)

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I’m packing up today to to leave for a week, alone. The  kind couple who owns Spruceton Inn in the Catskills do this pretty extraordinary thing where they give residencies to writers and artists during their slow season. I applied on a whim, and even when it became a reality it seemed so far away. But now I’m leaving today, and then it’s just me and a project I haven’t started and a room on my own. I feel excited–more excited than daunted, which I think is a good sign. But I also feel a little more strongly than usual that that I need to take special care of the words I put out there. When I think about writing, that’s always what I end up with, that if there’s a page there and I’m going fill it up it better be worth its space (see exhibit A). So before I go, I’d love to do a few things here. First, to talk about one of the businesses that helps to keep this site up and running, second, to give some of their good stuff away, and third, to leave you with something that I hope can be useful, that is–let’s talk about what happens when we braise certain greens with butter.

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