Life as I know It

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

Friday, January 14, 2011

Aromas from a Well-Loved Kitchen

The little garden is only steps away from the kitchen. I can walk outside and pick edible flowers (like the guavas and nasturtiums), herbs, lettuce, and fruits. I feel wealthy when I harvest these things.

Parsley (I love the robust Italian) and lots of thyme are an arm's length from my kitchen door.

This true bay tree is now three feet tall. It was about six inches tall when our dear friends Susie and Ellis Bassetti brought it to us as a housewarming gift. I love her and named her Eudora. She is a key ingredient in Jeff's spaghetti sauces.

Home picked herbs, fresh bread, and a tin full of homegrown peppers, which I've dried for sauces.

Good grief, he looks so SERIOUS. And he was...he read that pasta making book like he was studying for his most important catechism test. (See the hanging light? We found it in Wisconsin and carried it home in pieces when we flew back).

The beginning.

"I love kneading this."

Our floor looked like the snowstorm that hit Maine this week.

Proud as a new father.

A richness of pasta. 

"Could you get more chairs?" I did, and we had pasta drying over the back of them for a day. Now we use an old, trifold quilt rack, which works perfectly.

Well, it does have personality.

Scrape the old marble slab, sweep the floors, scrub the table. Days later and we're still picking up dough and bits of pasta, but we love this kind of mess.

Chicken breasts (sorry all my chicken-raising friends), butter, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and my freshly picked parsley.

Salt the water so the pasta has flavor, boil the water, drop it in. It was GREAT. We loved it, and Jeff is making it again for a gathering of friends this weekend. A young friend of ours died unexpectedly in November. We are going to her home to share an Italiano party with her husband. All of us are taking pasta (mostly homemade), different sauces for toppings, and appetizers. We're hoping that the joy of cooking with friends will help his healing begin.

While Jeff does his thing I do mine.  

I'm making lavender dryer bags (instead of those perfumed sheets), and I'm mixing spices for my old iron scent pot. I love to simmer these on the stove on chilly days. (Can you see the quilt rack in the background? Now it is a pasta rack.)

The iron pot can't be used for anything other than spice simmering. The spices have permeated the iron and even when it isn't in use, it scents the kitchen with sweet aromas. 

For all my life, I suffered through kitchens so small that trying to work in them with anyone else was a huge chore. Frustrating.

I loved my tiny kitchen in Cambria (you can see photos of it in the Rizzoli book Country Kitchens by Jocasta Innes) and used it well, but I had always dreamed of an eat-in-kitchen, like the one in my Grandmother's bungalow. I wanted sunlight, a long table in the center, which could stand in for an island, comfy chairs, bookcases, open shelves, simplicity, and room for two to dance through recipes.

After nearly four years of working on our kitchen, we are ALMOST finished. We just recently installed lighting appropriate to the age of our cottage (1930), and we have only a few small tweaks till it is exactly how we want it. Workable, good storage, lots of light, a sweet, old stove, a sink that nearly broke our backs when we installed it, and storage, abundant storage, and open shelves, which I love. If you don't like how it looks...why own it?  We love it and spend most of our time at our table doing our own projects and cooking what we love.

My husband is half Italian. He grew up with a flock of devoted aunts who filled their home with the scents of Italian cooking. His cousin Joyce once told him that there was "always a pot of sauce simmering on the stove." I love that image and can almost smell the sauce.

Now Jeff is slipping into the stream of his heritage, cooking and even making his own pasta with the simple Imperia hand crank that I bought him for his birthday. He is so happy and peaceful when he cooks, and so danged methodical. Much more than I could ever be. I riff off of recipes; he follows them like a road map.

I love sitting at the kitchen table while he works. I do my thing; he does his. We play music, catch up on news, and laugh. Isn't laughter one of the best things to come out of a cozy kitchen?

Sending love to you from our cozy, scent filled kitchen,


P.S. I've received over a hundred letters from you faithful readers about the magazine article, which was just released. Yes, our garden has much, much more than what was featured, but they do have space constraints and some things were not in bloom. Nobody wants to look at a mass of gray lavender plants with no flowers! Thanks to all of you for your encouragement. Yes, I am into my bird book, which must be finished by the end of May. Yikes, I'd better get back to work now! Thanks for the visit, come again soon for my book giveaway-Something Old and Something New. A treasured old volume called The Stillmeadow Road by Gladys Taber, and a new book called Sugar Snaps and Strawberries by Andrea Bellamy (Heavy Petal Blog). I reviewed her book for an on-line store and now have a chance to offer it to my followers. Take joy and play!


Mary Bergfeld said...

This was a lovely, very pleasant read. I am relatively new to your blog and while here I paged and browsed through your earlier entries. I really enjoyed my visit and I'll be back often. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

Tammy@Simple Southern Happiness said...

Now I have seen it all, I never thought to use the back of a chair. Next time I will gather all my chairs.

I use clothes hangers with that cardboard tub on it, the one you get comes from the cleaners that holds pants. I placed plastic wrap over the cardboard tubes then a towel. We had hangers of pasta hangin' everywhere.

Pasta making is fun but so messy and nothing beats the flavor when you have created them with your own two hands.

What a delightful post.

"Cottage By The Sea" said...

Using what's available, like your chair backs is brilliant. I used to dry fruit on cookie sheet in my car on a hot day. Just like a slow oven, but in the middle of the summer you don't have to have the oven on!

Kay's flowers said...

How fun that must be to eat your own pasta. I love the thought of a pot just for brewing herbs. I would love to know what you put in it. I'm going to have to go out and hunt for the magazine because I haven't seen the article yet and I can hardly wait. Always love your posts. Have a great weekend.



Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

A great post. To much to comment on all of it..what struck me most was the Pasta making. I too am half Italian and my Paternal Grand parents, I am told as I didn't know them, always made all their pastas from scratch. My Grandfather was a Chef and he loved cooking and gardening. I got the love of gardening.. but not for cooking, but if I had that kitchen I think I would enjoy it a lot. :))
I was finally able to find The Garden magazine you are in & really enjoyed it. It left me wanting to see more of your lovely Home and Garden.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Uh oh, SORRY. I meant to give the ingredients.

1/2 cup allspice (whole)
1/2 cup cloves
1/2 cup star anise
1/2 cup cinnamon chips
1/2 cup dried orange peel.

Drop in a bag, tie closed. Can be reused a dozen times before it poops out.


P O T A G E R said...

Happiness all around you. Lovely and contented images.........can I come sit for a spell

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

I'm not letting The Herbal Husband read this post, Sharon! Four years to finish your kitchen! I have no hope! Jeff did look very professional making the pasta. A new venture, possibly? xxoo Nancy

Anonymous said...


Don’t give up hope. A kitchen remodel doesn’t need to take as long as it took us. Next week Sharon will write a before and after posting about the kitchen remodel. Tell your Herbal Husband, sorry, he’s not off the hook. Don't let him lollygag.


Thea said...

You and the hub just do the funnist stuff! have a wonderful, pasta filled weekend! i'm hungry now! i've never read Gladys Taber - i'd like to know what's so great about her!! hugs, t

Donna@Conghaile Cottage said...

LOVE this post and My Hubby too is half Italian. I remember helping his Mom in the kitchen making pasta when we were first married. It was such fun. NOW you've made me want HOMEMADE PASTA!!! Ahhh this Sunday will be pasta day! I'll send you some ESP from my kitchen... NO HERBS outside though, we are BURIED in white here in CT...
Hugs to you,

Lori ann said...

This was so charming Sharon (and Jeff!) all your ingredients for a happy kitchen, garden and life are storybook. I dream of the kind of kitchen you have now, but I'm not sure I could make my own pasta, even in such a sweet kitchen!

I would love to win one of Gladys Tabers books, I havent been able to find one at our library or used book store. And I'm still looking for the magazine! I'll have to get to Santa Barbara!

Have a lovely weekend dear Sharon,

Susan said...

I love watching the partnership of making pasta with your husband. We use to dry ours on a broom handle suspended across two chairs. Fresh pasta is incredibly easy and taste so good. How comforting.

And, your gardens are so welcoming. I remember our time in California and having my herb garden all year 'round. Oh winter, please pass quickly! Love you, Susan

farmlady said...

Making pasta... you are very brave. I have never tried this. I do remember my grandmother making ravioli in her kitchen. I, like your husband, spent many summers and holidays in the kitchens of my Italian Aunts in the Napa Valley. I can still remember the huge kitchens and the smells that filled them. They permeate all my memories of that long ago time.
Is that an Okeefe and Merritt stove? It looks like my mother's.
What a great post!

Pondside said...

I don't think the magazine is on the shelves here yet - but I'm keeping an eye out for it.
The Great Dane wants me to make pasta, but I think that he'd be a lot better at it because, like your husband, he is careful and methodical.

Zuzana said...

Yet another authentic post from you, dear Sharon, with images fitted for a beuatiful book.
I do not know what it is about your photographs, but they have an uncanny aura about them, that speaks of cosy and secure home, full of love and affection for life. The composition catches me at all times as well. And of course the colors and the flowers always put my mind at ease - I miss flowers now in the depths of winter...
Thank you for sharing your day with us, a day that in my book would be a perfect day indeed.
Have a lovely weekend,

Mozart's Girl said...

Sitiing here on a grey London morning, it's so wonderful to read this post and to see green makes me realised how starved we are of plant life in January here! I love this peek into your garden, kitchen and beautiful things. Jeff has just the right attitude for pasta making - methodical is the way to go, which is why I've only attempted it under restaurant conditions (where I had someone else to clear up!!) Looks amazing & I can smell the sauce & herbs, hear the gentle conversation and the laughter...thanks so much for giving me a little Californian lift this morning, dearest Sharon! xoxo Love from London & us

Kay's flowers said...

Thanks sooo much for the recipe! You are so dear.



Marcie said...

Oh all the pasta ~ draped everywhere ~ is so fun! I am inspired to dig out my old pasta maker (idle for years now!) and try again. I was never very good at it, but it was always fun to try.

I love reading about your time in the kitchen. We tend to gather in the kitchen around here too. The other day my (nearly) 18 year old daughter, her friend, and I got an impromptu "wine glass band" going while dinner cooked. :)

Thank you, as always, for sharing such lovely glimpses of your life!

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Loved seeing the photos from your pasta efforts and your beautiful herb garden!

Snap said...

What a wonderful, fun post. Loved watching Jeff make pasta and using everything to dry! You two make a great team .. smiling and laughing ... all the really important things. My herbs still look pretty good between a hot day one day and a freeze the next and back to hot ... whirling dervish in the garden!

Unknown said...

PS...Your charming cottage kitchen is so warm and inviting too! Your stove reminds me of my MIL's in her old farmhouse. I think it's at least 50 years old and still cooks up a storm!

Much love,

From the Kitchen said...

I just popped in for a quick visit and have stayed far longer and enjoyed every minute. From your earnest pasta preparer to the view of that wonderful stove, the love for your kitchen shows. It truly seems to be the heart of your home. If only I could step outside my door right now to gather herbs. We have only the memory until the first of May.

Thanks for such a pleasant interlude in my morning.


Alyssa said...

What a great pasta post! I never knew that making pasta took so much work! Three cheers for the pasta maker and for you for the extra support ;) Looks so yummy! I'm sure that my son would have that pasta on his head as hair! ;)Alyssa of Boston Bee

Claudia said...

Hi Sharon,

Ummm. That pasta looks great! I love your kitchen - the hanging light is perfect and the stove....oh the stove! I dream of owning a vintage stove like yours.

I bought Country Gardens and so enjoyed seeing your home and gardens there! Congratulations!


Robin Larkspur said...

I have been admiring your kitchen for sometime from your other posts, especially the baking drawers for the grands. Your post is so cozy and comforting; I can smell the herbs and the sauce, and I love all your utensils, boards, spoons, etc. Thank you for the glimpse into your so romantic world, your home sweet, sweet home. Blessings to you and Jeff. Robin.

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

It's a wonderfully happy kitchen you have my friend, and you tell such a good story.~~Dee

Liisa said...

Your kitchen is lovely, and elicits all of the comforts of home. Your post has reminded me of the deliciousness of homemade pasta... something I haven't made in awhile. And, I must try your recipe for brewing spices - it sounds wonderful. I am so happy to have discovered your blog!

Blondie's Journal said...

I used to love making pasta with my little pasta machine, which is exactly like yours and Jeff's. And I had to laugh because I, too, hung the pasta to dry over a chair! A quilt rack...brilliant! You have made me want to dust mine off, great inspiration.

I was admiring your kitchen as I read your post and now I am very excited to see the complete redo.

Happy Weekend, Sharon!


Sharon Lovejoy said...

Oops, when I gave you the recipe I neglected to say that of course you simmer these in water. SIMMER, not boil. I can't tell you how many times I've boiled away the water.


Marguerite said...

Sharon, I must admit the first time I saw your blog I was drawn straight away to your kitchen sink. what a find! I loved hearing the story of how you created your kitchen together. Our own kitchen is in need of rejuvenation and we've spent many happy hours plotting and planning how we might create a space we can both enjoy.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Forgive me - I am almost envious.
So many things you do - I have done in the past.
You make me remember my big old farmhouse - but children grew up and mom thought she needed a small cottage - I have it now a year.
Excited so about my Spring garden and pots of herbs - but you bring back so many memories.
Good memories - you are a blessing and makie me smile :)

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

What a fun post! I love seeing what happens inside your home. The pasta looks so good. My husband is definitely the best cook in our house and I love when he "unwinds" in the kitchen by making something delicious. I think he gets the same thing out of cooking that I do from gardening. I love the idea of the lavender sachets for the dryer, I'm going to try that this summer.
Can't wait to read your bird book when it comes out!

Lili said...

Oh dear Sharon how you always bring so much inspiration and delight. Your kitchen has so many wonderful details that I crave to see up close. That shade of soft green on your cabinet doors and your hanging pot rack with all that glorious copper cookware! And most importantly, the sheer absolute enjoyment of you and Jeff each thoroughly enjoying that space together with an abundant garden outside, just steps away. xoxo ~Lili

Lydia said...

A man who makes pasta is a man to be cherished. But then, you know that already.

My husband comes in a close second. He eats my pasta.

Which, after 35 years of seeing what happens to the kitchen when he cooks- it is best we both enjoy that I make the pasta.

So a tie it is between your Jeff and my Gerry!

Rebecca said...

I so enjoyed the visit to your kitchen via the pictures. I read and REread the paragraph with the description of your almost-finished kitchen. I wanted to move in.

Pom Pom said...

Oh, I adore Stillmeadow and a while ago I went crazy ordering Gladys Taber's books from Amazon.
Your kitchen is wonderful and your husband is a gallant chef!
I took some potted rosemary and lemon balm to school and they are getting quite worn from the students' constant touching! Herbs are wonderful! Best idea I've heard in a while = lavender dryer bags! Brilliant, Sharon!

the wild magnolia said...

A true visit, that is what I had, here at your blog! Tremendous fun seeing the herbs at the back door! So healthy and ready to be still and look pretty or be dropped in the cooking pot for freshest flavor! Um, yum, what fun!

Pasta making from scratch, I've never been so brave. "Following a recipe like a road map...", wonderful and fresh pasta to show for it too! The chicken recipe looks so good!

Thanks for letting me visit!


Anonymous said...

Hi Sharon, I just reviewed Sugar Snaps for my newspaper column. Great book, don't you think? [I am keeping my copy.] I love your peaceful love of your kitchen and working with your hubby in it. How lucky and blessed you are. ... I looked for the magazine while shopping the other day but to no avail. Maybe it's not out yet. I hope I don't miss it. ... Love those guava flowers. I've got the plant but it's never bloomed for me. Maybe this year. Big hugs!

Unknown said...

What a plethora of pasta! I've never had the urge to make it myself, though there truly is nothing like fresh pasta, is there. I can smell your herbs from here.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear friends,

I can't keep up with all your letters and am hoping this will help.

I've gotten reports from Indiana, Maine, California, Washington, and so many other places that people have found the Country Gardens article at Barnes & Noble (although our local one doesn't have it!) and in grocery stores. Also Borders, but not confirmed at Borders.

Thanks for your caring,


Aunt Jenny said...

Oh Sharon...a new post on your blog always makes my day. I miss having fresh herbs right outside my door this time of year. I do love the seasons though..and will soon be planting seeds for my spring garden. You are so inspiring! Your kitchen is it!! And how fun to have someone grown up to cook with. I can't imagine how that would be.I do love cooking with the kids though!
Have a wonderful week!!

rebecca sweet said...

I've finally had a moment to read your past 3 entries and I'm so glad I saved them for today! After a very stressful morning (tech issues on my blog, computer not working right - ugh) I decided to transport myself into your world. Sharon, I don't know how you do it but your beautiful writing and photos are better than a 90 minute massage! My day is off to a good start again, and all is right with the world. Thank you, my friend....

Thea said...

i can confirm that i bought my issue of COuntry Gardens at Borders in Falls Church, VA! t

Sharon Lovejoy said...

But, in general the two big chains carry it regularly and a lot of grocery stores. Sometimes it’s not at the grocery store check-out, but in the back at the “mainline”. Also, you should be able to find it at Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wal-mart.

This JUST came in this morning. So look for the magazine at the above mentioned spots.

Good luck!


Elizabeth and Gary said...

Hi Sharon,
Oh my, your kitchen makes my heart sing....I adore your long white country sink, I spotted it right away, oh and your stove I have dreamed of a stove like this..
My guy also lovea to cook, but boy does he make a mess, LOL.
My husband is half Italian too and his Grandmother came to give me a cooking lesson on how to make sauce, right after we were married (35 years ago)so anyway she began her lesson and started adding her spices and then a (pinch of sugar) I had never heard of sugar (my Mother didn't use sugar in her sauce)LOL and I had learned to cook from my Mom..I learned never to question the Italian Grandmother! just add the sugar..
By the way I do not use sugar in my sauce hehehehe..
I enjoyed your post so much!
Have a sweet day and hugs, Elizabeth

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

How wonderfully timed it was that you found my blog and posted a comment on my Meyer Lemon tree! I loved coming here and seeing your herbs. But was really wonderful was seeing the Imperia pasta machine and the pasta you made. We just purchased an Imperia and plan on making our first pasta in the very near future.

Sadly my potager is under snow right now, but come spring I will be back outside picking my herbs, planting my veggies and enjoy our almost finished pergola in our back yard.

I have just added you to my google reader, so I can keep up with your posts, hope you do the same for me!

Carol said...

Dear Sharon, It is snowing and sleeting outside on this New England hillside I call home. I so enjoyed reading your post this morning! A lovely story weaving food and tradition and a cozy kitchen . . . along with threads to help heal a dear friend. Great lavender bags . . . I so hate those toxic sheets that claim to be lavender and they are so strong when coming out of my neighbors dryer vent! Maybe that is an idea for me to present to her!! Thank you! I look forward to seeing your bird book!! Authenticity is a word that arises in my mind as I read and see your magical world. ;>)

Donna said...

I just found your lovely blog. How nice to see your fresh herbs, and fresh pasta. I love simmering spices too ~ I never thought to put them in the dryer.

I've enjoyed my visit!

Nina Suria said...

Hello Sharon, what a sweet story and thanks for sharing 'em. Jeff looks very professional, too. And I can smell the sweetness aromas from your simmering spices.

p/s I love ur scraper :)

jerilanders said...

So... can I borrow your husband for about a week? Mine is a great cook but he doesn't do Italian, and that is my favorite cuisine>

Angela Faust said...

First of all, the pasta looks great. A few years ago I set out to learn that skill myself and have never been disappointed with the results. Homemade is always good.

Second, I love the idea of making lavender bags for the dryer. I'm hoping to get more use out of my lavender this year, may have to try this. Might be a lovely gift too.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi friends,

I've gotten lots of mail asking I learned how to make the pasta too. Nope, this is Jeff's thing. I love it that he get so involved in the process. His last batch for the party truly lived up to the name of "angel hair." Wonderful.

Yes, the lavender bags are simple and you can also stuff some stem into them. I used all the tops and a bit of stem. When they're in the dryer the sweet scent is amazing. The rest of the stem was tied at each end to make a "lavender log" and was used at the beginning or the end of fire making to give us their aroma as they smolder.

MerrieSherrie said...

Oh, thank you so much for the inspirational blog!! Love the darling stove & treasured squirrel, too!
I so enjoyed the article about your garden and had to have this issue to keep and pour over!!
You are so lucky in your sweet hubby and I hope he always finds joy in the kitchen.
Sending hugs, Sherry

Sharon Lovejoy said...


Thanks! The iron squirrel is a nutcracker, a gift from a man named Ralph, so it is named Ralph in his honor.

He had a store in Cambria and that squirrel sat in his window for 25 years. I always stopped to visit him and the squirrel. One day he just handed it to me and said, "this will help you remember me." He died soon after.


The Red Umbrella said...

The secret life of pasta!

Pat said...

We are headed to -21 below tonight and it is snowing as I copy of Country Gardens just arrived in our very cold mailbox and I am transported to your sunny garden...lovely article and full of such fun & inspiring things!The entire issue was well done.

Absolutely must try making pasta too - it has to be so delicious when made at home.

Thank you for helping me through a very cold, winter day.

grand pam said...

Dearest Sharon and Jeff,

thank you so much for your lovely blog. Sharing your home, recipes, and love has been a joy for so many. I had not heard of Gladys Taber but plan to now investigate her and will head to Barnes and Noble for the magazine. I still do Sunflower houses for my seven grandaughters(no sons). My oldest at 18 still loves them just as I do every word that comes from Sharon Lovejoy. My herb garden is asleep as we get ice and snow at this very minute but ya'll did make my mouth water. Keep enjoying each other in all things

Gwyn said...

Just read the article about you in Country Gardens, so I Googled you, which lead me to your lovely blog!
You are an inspiration...a modern day Tasha Tudor! love it!
Visit me anytime:
Smiles! Gwyneth

a woman who is said...

Impressive your husband is. Mine has never cooked and the other day he said he might take it up for a hobby. WOW! I am going to show him this post;)

Your cozy kitchen sound like a wonderful place to spend with the hubby!

Donna said...

Sharon, you are always such an inspiration. Your chicken and pasta meal looks fantastic. Your garden-at-a-reach is perfect. I love your home - both of them!... Donna

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Friends,

I've fallen down on the job of posting and am so sorry. When the magazine article came out we were slammed with over 200 letters, e-mails, etc. and I am trying to answer them so that folks know how much they mean to us. THANK YOU ALL!

Jeff and I are working together on the next blog post of "Before and After in the Kitchen," which we'll do on Saturday. We're both writing it since we both planned, outfitted, painted, installed lighting etc.

Stay tuned and thank you for all the wonderful words.


Lindy said...

What a pleasant journey through the words of your blog post. :) Then came the final picture (for this post) and what is there but a picture of of one of Gladys Taber's books. At one time I was able to find them in my local library and read every one of them more than once. They were a soothing balm. I have not seen any of Ms. Taber's books in years. What a delight!

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon and Jeff- thank you for this deeply personal tour into your beautiful kitchen and your process of making pasta and good times. How wonderful that you share the cooking- and that you both enjoy it so. Your herb garden is a cooks delight- I love mine also- just outside my door.

I am truly sorry for the loss of your friend- your caring spirits will be a great comfort to broken hearts I am sure.

Every day is a blessing- I love that you appreciate that-

gigi said...

It is ALWAYS a joy to visit your blog. Thank you!!

shari said...

May I inquire as to where you find those dryer bags?? I would love to make some myself....