Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Icing on the cake of my life"

This baked catastrophe looked beautiful to my grands.

So, how do YOU handle grief, joy, burdens, and blessings? I tend to approach these disparate feelings in the same way. I cook and especially love to bake or make soup. I garden. Everything about gardening makes me lose myself in the task, whether it is weeding, planting, transplanting, fertilizing, propagating, you name it–if it is outside in the garden, it is a healing salve to my soul.

This is the time of year when I love to work on containers that may be crowded with too many plants. Also, it is a time when I replant many of my pots. 

The past couple of weeks have been tough ones. The loss of a friend, another close, close friend in the hospital having a heart procedure, yet another (Virginia, who is often seen in my photos here) in the hospital with a grave problem. Tending to my writing, drawing, cooking, and gardening helps me through the worst times. I feel so lucky to have friends and family who make my heart soar. Thank you for all your e-mails, letters, gifts, and loyalty.

One of the biggest joys in my life is to spend time with my grands. Last night, in celebration of the upcoming holidays, we baked cookies for some teachers. I scanned two of my favorite cookbooks, my dear friend Susan Branch's Christmas cookbook and her Vineyard Seasons. Last year we used Sue's cookie recipe (from her pal Elaine) for our baking. I also considered using Tasha Tudor's sugar cookie recipe, but in the end, I turned to my friends at the Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog, which I visit a few times a week, and used their sugar cookie recipe. This was simple, fun, and do-able for children.

Both Sue's and Tasha's books are signed, making them even more treasured. Guess I'll have to have the girls sign their recipe sheet, which I printed off their blog.

We hauled out the trusty Kitchen Aid (I need a fork lift for this) and began our work (play).

Sara (in her magic cloak) checks out the children's baking drawer and finds some cookie cutters and rolling pins.

The "kid drawer."

One for Mo-one for Sara, and, of course, the sprinkles.

Mo at work. He laughed so much we were hysterical too.

Sara chose the smallest cutter, a little gingerbread man with a heart.

The refrigerated dough got warmer and warmer as they worked, played, sculpted, and thrashed through the flour. Our kitchen looked like it had been dusted with snow.

Though they look like mini-disasters, they tasted great.

So I hope Anneliese forgives me for making her recipe look so bad, but they're a cinch to do, and the children in your life will thank you for the fun.

Simple Sugar Cookies


1 cup butter, room temp
1 ½ cups icing sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt


Mix butter, icing sugar and egg well in mixer.
Add milk and vanilla, then combined dry ingredients.
Chill in sealed container for a few hours or overnight.
Divide into two or three parts (working with small
amounts of pastry makes rolling out easier).

Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees. I spread our cookies onto cookie sheets lined with parchment and we added sprinkles. We baked them for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Sara said, "These are DIVINE." Mo said, "UMMMMMMMM." Thanks Anneliese. And thank you Kathy at MGCC who wrote these words to me today. "Being a grandma is certainly the icing on the cake of my life." I LOVE that and feel the same way.

Happy gardening and happy baking,


P.S. Won't you join me for a few minutes and listen to a radio program I did this week? The program is about family, friends, and traditions. 

This was fun. I was tired and my voice sounded tired, but I enjoyed reminiscing about the holidays. Below is the traditional tray of wheat berry I mention and the chandelier that I always decorate with olive boughs for peace.

Cheers and Peace!

As we approach the new year...can you believe it will be 2012? (CAN YOU BELIEVE I GOT THE YEAR WRONG? TALK ABOUT AN ALTERED REALITY), I want to offer my followers a well-considered give-away. I love my signed Tasha Tudor cookbook, which she signed for me while we were appearing as speakers at an herb conference. I want to give this book away to anyone who is a follower and who leaves a comment on this or the next posting. All joys to you!


Lemon Verbena Lady said...

My favorite cookie growing up was sugar cookies that my friend, Sue's mother baked. Now that I have lost almost 40 pounds, they aren't as important as they once were. Looks like you had fun with the grands, Sharon. It's what life is all about! xxoo Nancy

Marigold Jam said...

Loved the radio talk! Those biscuits reminded me of the fun my daughter used to have cooking with my mother - that grandmother/grandchild relationship seemed magical. I never had a grandma nor do I have any grandchildren (as yet!) but I can appreciate the fun it must bring to Christmas as well as to the rest of the year.

Thought of you yesterday as I was at the Museum of gardening just across the river from Parliament Square where the students were protesting and it was an oasis of tranquility in the city!


From the Kitchen said...

Sharon: Thank you for the lovely visit this morning. It was wonderful to actually hear your voice and learn of your special holiday traditions. It was fun to meet your grandchildren and see them prepare sugar cookies. Such sweet memories that invoked. Alas we cannot garden here. This morning the ground is covered with snow that arrived last evening and hung around all night. I'm going out in it to meet two dear friends for lunch. I am hoping for the best for your dear friends who are going through life's challenges right now.


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear Sharon ~ What a lovely post and what a delight to hear your sweet voice and listen to you speak of your family holiday traditions.

I think I'll try that cookie recipe this year.

Have a lovely Christmas Season filled with love, peace and happiness.


Dawn said...

Dearest Sharon-

I am so glad you found some comfort in the company of your grands. I can't wait to listen to your radio show. I think of you often, and send you love and strength.

xoxo Dawn

Suzanne said...

How nice to hear your voice over my am coffee:-) Strength and prayers to you as you deal with your struggles. Baking and children can always brighten the day though!

Laura said...

I love the MGCC Blog too! :)

The Sugar Cookies look great. The ones that I make with my children are quite similar looking so I may be biases. ;p
It looks and sounds like you all had fun and hey.. memories were made as well, right?

I'll have to pop back in later to listen to the radio program. My youngest is home today (he only goes to school every other day still as he is in kindergarten), and he is always asking me questions so... that makes it hard to listen to anything.

Great post! Loved it!


Vee said...

Keepin' it real and lovely, too! Your grands are so cute and seriously intent. Good thing that Mo can keep you laughing. That there's a drawer for the grands is so cool. I'm going to see what I can do about that. (I do have a picnic basket for mine, but a that's the thing!)

I'm so glad that you have such a wonderful outlet in gardening. Sometimes it seems that we do need something that allows us to use our hands and not our heads...too much thinking will get us into trouble every time.

Sweet peace to you and yours as well.

Erin | Bygone Living said...

I'm so sorry about your friends... my thoughts go out to you during this time ♥

What great pictures! Your kitchen Aid is lovely (my white one's all covered in hardened cake batter :p), and your kitchen beautiful. I especially love your cookbooks! It's always a tradtion of mine to take out Susan B.'s Christmas book every December :)

Dan said...

It must be hard to lose such a dear friend, and have others who are ill at the moment. How lovely that you can throw yourself into such fun baking days with your grands. I loved the magic cloak! What special powers does it have I wonder?
I bet the cookies were delicious.
I loved your olive branch decorations and the houseleeks (is that what you call them where you live?) in the pot.
Every good wish to you Sharon

Unknown said...

Baking does have a way of soothing those rough edges life tosses inevidably tosses our way from time to time.. and the company of grands makes that time all the more special. I so enjoyed your radio talk this am. Listening to you speak was a wonderful meditation to start my day with! As a mom of teens now, you inspire me to be a grandma like you!
A children's' drawer, a child's garden and LOADS OF BOOKS and time... That's a perfect recipe for wonderful memories to be made!
Much love,

Mozart's Girl said...

Love to you dearest Sharon (& Jeff). I love the new look to your blog. Glad you had fun with Christmas preparations - the children are gorgeous! Keep moving forward. It's all we can do. Thinking of you, dear friend, with much love xoxo Rachel

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hey friends, Rachel's comment tickled me, but I am pretty clueless about how to jazz up the blog look. Tried to last year and lost my blog roll. So I am a bit more careful about working on things.

Any hints from anyone about where to go for information?

Thanks for the comments, the e-mails too. Rachel and Dawn, you're two of the best.



Sharon Lovejoy said...

P.S. But that doesn't mean ALL of you aren't great. Rachel and Dawn just sent me e-mails in the past days that touched me deeply.

Pom Pom said...

Hi Sharon! I love your soft crisp voice. Thank you for sharing!
Susan Branch = SUCH a favorite of mine. The grands look like they are having a ball!

Pat said...

How blessed you are to have the Grands in your life - I dream of that day in my own. The cookies are especially wonderful because of the moments you spent together.

My trusty Kitchen Aid mixer is the same color and yes, it does weigh a ton, doesn't it? But oh how many good things they turn out over the years.

Zuzana said...

I am sorry you have been experiencing sadness in your life, but I can see you have help from your wonderful family to move on...
I agree with you on the therapeutic effect of nature and gardening.
Your images always convey a warmth and beauty of everything that you experience, in such an endearing and candid way.;))
Have a lovely weekend,

Susan said...

Sharon~First, thank you for sharing your traditions...your home sounds inviting and a refuge of comfort. Although the upcoming holidays has an emptiness this year without our daughter, I'm drawn to the busyness of baking and turning to the memories with my mother by my side to get me through this process with joy, kindness to others, and keeping Christmas in my heart.
I think your sugar cookies look yummy and I wish I was close by to have a cup of tea with you and enjoy them.
I'm keeping you and your dear friends in my prayers. Love, Susan

Anonymous said...

How do I handle grief, joy, burdens and blessings? I usually gets out to the bog with my dogs, sits down and talks to God.

I really liked the radio program!

Have a great day now!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

and I love SUSAN too. She is a true friend and has been for many, many years.

When 238 of my original pieces of art were destroyed Sue was the first to call me to help me through that particular hell. AND, when the day wore on and a HUGE bouquet of white lilies, baby's breath, and roses arrived I didn't even need to look at the card to KNOW who they were friend Susan-one in a million.


Farmhouse Soaps said...

What a lovely post. Thanks for sharing your time baking with the grands! We have been spending our days baking in preparation for Christmas - it is a favorite tradition. I'm blessed that my 16 and 20 year old still love to do it with me.
Looking forward to listening to your radio broadcast!
Merry, Merry!

suzanne said...

Good morning Sharon

I have just been down to my orchard to pick plums. The juiciest sweetest plums. I find my peace amoungst my fruit trees and chickens. I love how I gather followers as I go through that gate. The cat then the dogs then the chickens and rabbit. They seem to enjoy gathering in the orchard too. The energy in ones garden I am sure, has been given to us for moments of rejuvenation. I have no doubt you must talk to your plants too. I find myself able to talk and walk and breath deeply. Its lovely and a true blessing. Sending love to you at this hard time Sharon...

I too just love baking with my children. Then later each sitting down with a cup of tea and our baked goods.

Your giveaway is very generous. Tasha Tudor has a place in my home and heart. Life does move on but her simple ways help to slow things down~


Privet and Holly said...

Hi Sharon,
Seems a lot of Suzannes
{me included} and Susans
are drawn to you and your
blog. Sounds like you are
handling your sadness and
burdens by counting your
blessings....your grands
being right up there on that
list! Sara looked like a
little Tasha T from behind
with her magic cloak : ) I
wish I'd had more patience
for this kind of project with
my own kiddos when they were
little but hope I will when
they have kids! My heart skipped
a beat when I read that you
are friends with Susan Branch
as I have most of her books and
when I need a little "escape" I
will pull one down and get lost
in it. Love her and her world.
Your olive branches are, well,
heavenly. So perfect for your
part of the world. I am off to
make a cup of tea and then will
play your interview. I'm looking
forward to it. Happiest of
thoughts coming to you, today!
xx Suzanne
PS: Of course, I would be more
than honored if I were to win
your Tasha book....I'd be over
the moon : )

Unknown said...

What fun!I popped back by today ( as I often do) and found your edit for your book give a way... Tasha is well read and loved in our home as well and I can't tell you how many times I have checked her books from the library. Just having them on my nightstand lowers my blood pressure before I even turn a page. Corgi Christmas provided the inspiration for us to get one of our own when we decided on the " perfect" family dog for us!

Susan Branch's Vineyard Seasons has been on my book shelf for years. ( a gift from a dear friend in our early married life) Her Lobster Bisque Recipe is d-elish... It's been our Christmas Eve tradition to make it for many years.
It's so generous of you to give your signed Tasha Tudor cookbook away to one of us lucky bloggers!
Thank you!

rebecca sweet said...

Sharon, my friend. You and I have been leading parallel lives this past week (though mine isn't filled with heart-wrenching sadness). I've had different struggles to deal with and have also thrown myself into transplanting my succulent containers and baking Christmas cookies with the kids! And imagine my surprise when I see your mini-gingerbread cookie cutter! That's my 20-year old son's favorite one of all and each year he makes an army of blue gingerbread men. We bake the cookies each year from my grandmother's recipe (who passed away a year ago) and just smelling the hint of lemon in the dough brings back a flood of memories for me.

And no, I can't believe its going to be 2012! (Good thing we have an entire year to prepare for it!) (always a smartie-pants, I know....)

I hope you enjoy this beautiful Sunday!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Happy Sunday all you dears,

Sweet Rebecca, I NEED that recipe if you're willing to share it. As I recall my Grandmother Lovejoy either used zest or lemon from her tree.

Thanks a zillion,


Kim said...

Hello Sharon,
Thank you for visiting my new blog and being the first follower. Your blog and home are beautiful.
God bless,

Lori ann said...

dear sharon,
your sweet grandchildren may be the icing on your life (cake) but i'm sure you are the magic sprinkles on theirs.
you are a modern day tasha and i think thats why i love you. i've always loved her so much.
i hope your sadness soon turns into only lovely memories.

i'm off to hear your radio show now!


p.s thank you so much for likeing my husbands Journal cover shot!

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I do not follow you on Blogger but through Google Reader. Always a good thing to see "you" there. :)

I think a great thing to win would be a book signed by YOU!

This post made me smile because I'm known for making very good cookies but terrible at rolling out and decorating sugar cookies! I'm really trying to get better.

rebecca sweet said...

Hi Sharon - I'm thrilled to share my sweet grandma's recipe with you:

Maxine's Sugar Cookies

2 1/4 c. sifted flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. milk
1/2 tsp. lemon flavoring or 1 tsp. lemon zest

1. Sift flour, salt & baking powder together
2. Cream shortening & sugar.
3. Add eggs, vanilla, milk, lemon to sugar mixture.
4. Add sifted ingredients and blend well.
5. Roll and cut. Sprinkle with sugar before baking on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes (and mail a package to Rebecca)…. :)

Lydia said...

Dear Sharon- This is a blog to come back to again and again.

I can't wait to show the pictures of the grand's to my children so I can tell them they do too exist):-

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Thank you sweet Rebecca, and hey to all of you. Check out Rebecca's blog, which is Gossip in the Garden. It is on my blog roll.


kj said...

bittersweet indeed. i have been thinking of this word and that state for a couple of days now, so i do not deem it a coincidence that i've arrived here this morning.

please add my prayers for your friends.

about the cookies: i baked with my mr ryan age 4 and what pure fun. we made these little esy peasy treats that involve putting a herseys kiss on a flat preztel and adding an m & m for tops. they looked awesome! (on my blog). do you know this recipe? did it for the first time this year.

happy holidays to you, your family, your friends.

Lori ann said...

Dear Sharon,
i finally had a chance to sit and listen to your radio program this morning. Oh my! i felt so emotional listening to you describe every lovely tradition you carry on. i used to do so much more when my children were little (and i didn't have full time job outside the home), but you've made me miss it so. (a good thing). i'm hoping next year i'll be working less and can begin again some of our traditions again and yours too!
and Sharon, you have such a lovely warm voice.
hugs + love,

Joanne said...

Although I tried to listen to your radio show, it didn't seem to work for me. I have really enjoyed your postings and your pictures and all that you share. Thank you for that sugar cookie recipe. I have a day off today so...
Happy baking it will be!
You have mentioned all my favourites which I have shared in the past on my blog:
Yourself, Tasha Tudor and Susan Branch! Yes! Love you all!
Thank you for letting us enjoy your lovely blog and books!
Joanne at Seasonal Hearth

Dianne said...

Sharon, I've just re-discovered your blog and I'm enchanted with it. This post about Christmas baking has brought back so many treasured memories of baking with our son and sometimes other children, and he loved baking with his grandma when we visited her in a town 3 hours away from our home here near the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. This year I'll try Rebecca's Grandma's Sugar Cookies, and with the inspiration of your own blog and others that I'm finding through the lovely group of people who comment here, I may even venture into more gardening, so that Sunflower Houses, Hollyhock Days and other books of yours that I own, will become far more than just books that I read wistfully and put back on my shelf. Tasha Tudor has been an inspiration to me over many years, and I'm happy to see that her legacy continues in the writing of you and others.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I* can't listen to your radio talks, but visiting here makes up for it...Iand what will life be without our catastrophical, but beautiful and delicious bakings! It is traditional in our home that the first few crepes should ALWAYS be catastrophes! I'm envious of your gardenw work(it is SO cold and wet and snowy here..) AN?D of your grands,...but I'll be there too some day, no rush!

a woman who is said...

Dear Sharon,
So very very sorry to hear of your season of loss. I love how you combate your grief with the same healthy activities I too enjoy. Especially those grand kids no matter how they wear you out =)

I am going to try baking some cookies with the grand girlies myself next week. By the way are you aware that the Mennonite gals are doing a cook book? If you are one of their followers I am sure you caught the news. You know we love the same ladies...I became a big fan of Susan Branch back in the day along with Tasha Tudor. I would sure love one of her books so put me in the drawing for sure =)

Blessings to you and yours over the holidays!

Darla said...


Thank you so much for sharing your radio broadcast and your outstanding blog that I visit quite often. We hope to make the sugar cookies next week when the children are out of school. The Tasha Tudor cookbook giveaway is more than generous. Best wishes!


Teri said...

I just started following you via Farmlady's blog. I have visited Cambria before, actually for an anniversary. I loved it there. I am envious of you living in Maine. It is so lovely there. It looks as if you had fun with you Grands! I look forward to seeing what your blog is all about from this point on. I remember you from the magazines. Great stuff.

marcia said...

LOVED your day with your Grands. A way to put life in perspective is to spend it with children. . they fill your heart! And baking together makes it extra special.

How can you part with Tasha's signed cookbook? It is so very generous of you!

Hugs to you and hope your heart is lighter.

happy day!

Lili said...

You have the most beautiful and soothing voice Sharon. I really enjoyed listening to all of your family traditions and I marvel in how you can fit it all in, but then I realize it is your passion and you are so inspirational. Holding you in my thoughts Sharon for all the sadness you have been experiencing with your dear friends. Your grandchildren must indeed be a bright spot for you right now, how they must treasure you as much as you do them. Hugs to you dear Sharon. ~Lili

Betty said...

Thank you for another beautiful post Sharon. Grandchildren and gardening certainly help to ease the pain of sadness and loss.
I like the idea of a "kids drawer" in your kitchen.....may try that.
I enjoyed listening to your talk on radio. Some wonderful traditions.
I like the way you use the cut branches after pruning.
Christmas blessings to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sharon~~ Your lucky grands! Bless your heart. I bet they loved every second of being with you. Yummy cookies too.

Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

Looks like you were having lots of fun with those cookies. I love both Susan Branch and loved Tasha tudor too. I have a few of each of their books. I am also sorry about the loss of your dear good friend. I know she will be missed but remembered fondly by you.

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon -
Your grandchildren are precious and this is a wonderful post that shows the love of a grandmother for her babes. Those girls are so lucky to have a patient grandma who lets them bake with her. Those cookies are prize winners in my book!

I am blogging late tonight - but in the morning I am going to listen to your radio show with my morning coffee - I look forward to that.

Thank you again for this fabulus chance to win the Tasha Tudor book and to win one of your wonderful books!


Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

Sharon, I'm so sorry. The rhythms of life sustain us when burdens feel too large. I make similar cookies with Bear. When we do tomorrow, I will pray for you my friend.~~Dee

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

A friend shared a post on her Facebook feed and as soon as I saw your name, I knew I had to click through to your blog! It is wonderful to find you here amidst all my other garden/foodie blogger friends.

You asked how others get through the rough times. I spend my time doing the same things you do. Like you, the activities ease my stresses and sorrows somewhat. The healing time spent with a paintbrush or trowel is something I cannot find elsewhere.

Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Nan said...

I'm so sorry for all you are going through. Gardening and baking are so elemental, so timeless that I think they have the power to center us, focus us. I love your shelves with the bowls, and that cupboard with the children's baking drawer. You don't need to include my name in the drawing, since a friend gave me this book a few years ago.