Life as I know It

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

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake!

This stuffed squash was one of the main dishes. I bought the squash at a farmers' market in San Clemente. The farmer didn't know the name of it, but he said it was a "good baking" one–he was right.

A few years ago my friend Sue Branch mentioned that in all the years she has been writing, she has never had a book party. She wasn't complaining; it was simply a statement of fact. When she said that I decided that when she finished another book we would somehow celebrate it with a wonderful party.

When Sue finished A Fine Romance I talked with Jeff and with our friends Susan and Ellis Bassetti and told them I wanted to throw a party for her. Ellis and Susie quickly seconded the idea and volunteered to hold it at their ranch, which has so much more space than our home. (And who wouldn't want to attend a party in the middle of an olive grove and a vineyard?)

So onward and upward. Plans began to form, close friends were invited, and helpers were enlisted. Let the cooking begin!

Our little kitchen turned into an assembly line for a couple of days as we prepared for the party.

Recipe to follow at end of posting.

Ellis Bassetti mans/chefs the outdoor wood-fired oven he built.

Somehow Ellis knows exactly when his foods are finished to perfection. Practice, I guess. I have a tough enough time trying to get them right when I use an oven.

My granddaughter is wearing an official server's apron, but forgets her chores and loses herself in an adventure with the two pups. Much better than working!

Congratulations Sue dear!!

My pal Matt Spurr helps dish out and serve the cheesy peppers.

Joe Hall (alias "THE DREAMBOAT") surveys the box of oysters he flew in from a favorite fish market, The Net Result, on Martha's Vineyard.

Joe shucked the oysters for all of us newbies.

This is hard work! One slip of the knife and...

My salad was filled with all sorts of goodies from our garden, including pears, apples, and pomegranate arils. 

This is a nine pound pork loin seasoned with my homegrown herbs and marinated for two days.
I usually cook these for an hour, but in the hot, hot oven (which immediately sears in the juices) it took very little time and tasted great!

Setting the buffet table. 

Ok, so you can't actually see who is who, but some of the guests didn't want their photos taken...I understand that 'cause I never want my photo taken either.

The twenty foot long pine table had a garland of pomegranates, persimmons, and grape vines...

...and an array of beautiful and loyal friends (including Sue's original girlfriends from high school).

Sometimes I'd look around and see maybe a dozen people with their phones out and happily photographing the goings-on. 

A Fine Romance book cake by Renee Linn of Linn's Restaurant and Bakery. Renee spent hours working on this piece of art, which tasted as great as it looked. Thank you, Renee, for all your creativity and giving.

Don't drop the cake, Jeff!

Through the herb garden and to the grape arbor dining room.

Sue was surprised and she loved it!

Umm, I like the corners. Lots of frosting please. If I'm going to blow the calories, I might as well go for the good stuff.

Cute boots, Sue. 

The adorable Julie Marie (Idyllhours blog) sent two hand felted squirrels to the party. One for Sue and one for me. They are darling. Mine will go up on the animal shelf in my studio. Thank you, Julie Marie, for your thoughtfulness and caring.

I'll wind this posting down with the announcement of the winner of the vintage Anne Morrow Lindbergh book, Gift from the Sea, which I have treasured and read over and over for years.

I just hope that you all get the chance to read this, and that our lucky winner (automatically picked by the random number generator) is number 30,  Donna, but I do not have an e-mail address or any information about her. Donna, if you read this, I need your address, etc. It won't be published. If you are a member of The Grimy Hands Girls' Club, you'll receive an extra gift.

Also, I am in a bit of a dilemma here. Our winner of Sue's personally autographed book, A Fine Romance, from my last drawing, was never claimed. Chris Morgan won it, but I can't find Chris and she hasn't written me. I am going to wait for another week and then draw again if I am not contacted by Chris. Does that sound fair?

Baked Stuffed Pumpkin

Here is the recipe for the baked, stuffed pumpkin, which I plan to also do for Thanksgiving.

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees 

You'll need:

Large baking pumpkin or squash
Box of cremini mushrooms (they're more flavorful than white buttons)
2 stalks celery
1 sweet yellow onion
2 cups rice (I used Basmati and wild)
1 container organic chicken broth (32 oz)
2 tsp. butter
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 apples diced
1 cup pecans toasted

Cut the top off your pumpkin and clean out seeds and strings. Save the seeds and toast them (or dry them and replant them); they taste great.

Rub butter on the inside of pumpkin and lid and set aside.

Slice mushrooms.

Dice celery and sweet onion, add sliced mushrooms.  Drop a tsp. of olive oil and a pat of butter into a skillet and cook the mushrooms, celery, and onion till tender. Sometimes I add a splash of red wine or a good balsamic vinegar and make a reduction sauce from the juices. Gives these a richer taste.

Pour organic broth, two teaspoons of butter, and soy sauce into a heavy-duty lidded pot. Bring to a boil, add rice, turn heat to simmer. It took about 25 minutes for my rice to cook. Lift lid, check that all liquid is absorbed, and fluff rice with a fork. Add mushrooms, celery, and onion. Keep rice uncovered and set aside.

Cook diced apples in a buttered skillet. Stir constantly, add the brown sugar, stir till apples just start to soften. (They'll cook thoroughly in the squash.) Add toasted pecans to the apples, stir to incorporate. This will coat them with a bit of the brown sugar.

Stuff squash/pumpkin all the way to the top. Perch lid on top, and it is safest to bake the squash in some sort of a pan, preferably one attractive enough to sit right on your table.

Here is the tricky part. I baked my squash for a little over two and a half hours. You MUST be able to slip a spoon into the flesh of the squash, which you'll also be eating with the stuffing. Since this is a trial and no error dish, just start it baking early, keep lifting off the lid of the squash and poking at the flesh. When finished baking, set it atop your stove and keep the lid on. I covered mine with aluminum foil and it stayed hot for an hour.

Baked Baby Bell Peppers

Pre heat oven to 350

Selection of baby bell peppers
Olive oil
Sea salt
Goat cheese
Mixed herbs (I use oregano, lemon verbena, smoked paprika and something called Perfect Pinch Salad Seasonings.

Cut peppers in half and discard seeds and any pith
Spread peppers onto a baking sheet lined with parchment
Drizzle lightly with olive oil and top with a few twists of salt
Bake till sides just begin to brown. You must bake the shells empty first or the bells won't be cooked enough and will just taste raw.

Mix equal parts goat cheese and fresh Parmesan, drizzle on a bit of olive oil,add some herbs (make sure all herbs are cut into teensy pieces, especially the lemon verbena).

Stuff the cooled baby bells with the mixture. Top with a snowstorm of fresh parmesan, another drizzle of oil, and the Perfect Pinch Salad Seasoning. Toast in oven for about 10 minutes.

These are a huge hit! They've become a family tradition at our house. They take a bit of time, but when we cook for people we love it is fun.

Sending love across the miles,


P.S. Many thanks to the editors of Garden Gate magazine for their glowing review of my recent book, My First Bird Book and Bird Feeder, published by Workman and available through my site and many others. Hurrah! Introduce children (and maybe yourself) to the world of birds right outside your window!

I like how Garden Gate has pre-punched pages that can be easily inserted into a notebook or journal.


The Quintessential Magpie said...

Sharon, what a fun post and a fun party! Looks like everyone was enjoying themselves and who wouldn't??? Good food, good company, and a pretty setting. Your friend was blessed that you all honored her in this lovely manner.

I want to try your recipes. They sound delicious. My mother used to stuff acorn squash, and they were always a taste treat.

If there are hideous typos in this, I blame it on the IPAD. it decides to respell things if I somehow miss a key, and I end up saying the stupidest things at times. LOL. Yeah, that's right... Just blame it on the IPAD. But it really is embarrassing. Plus the print is so teeny tiny I have a hard time seeing to correct not only my mistakes but the iPAD's. if I miss the b in but, it makes ut into it. ;-) Cute!

So, as I said, if this doesn't make sense, you'll know why!



PS Oh, those felted critters are so cute!

Kat White said...

Sharon you certainly threw a lovely party. You and Susan are in my top ten of favorite artists/authors and your new books are most certainly worth celebrating. Thanks for sharing the party with us.

Lorrie said...

What a delightful party for Susan. I love her book. The food, the table, the setting - everything looked wonderful in the photos.
The pepper recipe is one I'll be trying!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What a lovely party for a lovely lady with a great group of friends.

Thank you for sharing.

Congrats to the winner.

Have a great weekend ~ FlowerLady

Julie Marie said...

Hello dear cuz... what a wonderful party!... I loved seeing all of these great photos... and hearing about all of yours and Susan's friends who attended... by the way, I don't blame your granddaughter one bit for playing with those precious pups!... that pork loin looks and sounds delish!... and how fun to cook it in an outdoor oven... the cheesy peppers would be my favorite I think... or maybe the stuffed squash?... they all sound and look so good!... and that book cake, wow!... what a wonderful job she did on that... I love the corners too... with lots of yummy frosting!... you are Jeff are so sweet to throw the party for Sue, along with your friends who own the vineyard... and I am so happy you got to eat under the arbor like you had wished for... also happy you and Susan loved your little squirrels!... mine, yours and Sue's are all "girlfriends" too!... my window feeder from you is on our window outside of our den, on our back deck... this morning I watched a precious little chickadee eating at it!... I need to look for the Garden Gate magazine... love to save my garden magazines and that would be great having holes already punched in it... going back now to look at everything again, and print out those recipes... love to you, xoxo Julie Marie

Nellie said...

Sharon, this was an amazing party! I had seen all about it on Twitter, and made some replies there. Your menu is scrumptious, and that stuffed pumpkin would be the perfect thing for the vegetarians (2) in our family! Everyone else would enjoy it, too.

Congratulations to Donna! It's a shame that you haven't been contacted regarding Sue's book. It is such a pleasure to read! I read it first, then reread it when my husband wanted me to read it to him!:-)

You are truly a wonderful friend, and I am sure Sue appreciates you!


Susan Branch said...

Ooooo Julie Marie, how I love my little squirrel! He is here in my hand now. I just pulled his scarf a little tighter, used the wire to curl is tail a bit more, mooshed his acorn tightly between his paws. He is perfect, being packed away right now for the drive home, the long way. Thank you so much!!! xoxo Love, Susan

Elizabeth Ann said...

Such a wonderful party for a precious person! Your recipes sound delicious. Congratulations to the winner of your book!

La Table De Nana said...

What a great setting..
Fabulous book party ..decor..all of it..
A bit star struck here:-)
And most definitely always the one behind the camera..:-)

Vee said...

What a dear friend you are! Susan must have loved every minute and she certainly deserves a party! What a beautiful one it was, too. The book was wonderful and I enjoy picking it up and reading snips again just for fun.

Yes, it is very fair, though I hope that Chris shows up because she would love the book.

Pom Pom said...

Hi Sharon! What a fun book party! Everything looks so lovely, so tasty!
Your stuffed squash is gorgeous.

Hindsfeet said...

Oh Sharon....if I'd only known...."Gift from the Sea" is my most treasured book.....

...if for some reason "Donna" doesn't show up, and, well, if no one else is interested, oh how I would *love* that treasure....I would happily trade you one of my books, "Breadcrumbs" (40 excerpts from my blog, Bird's Eye View)...and if she does surface, then I'm very happy for her ~*

well, as always, thanks for a sweet post....what a happy lucky lovely life you have....


Anonymous said...

What a coincidence, I have just ordered A Fine Romance this morning. What a wonderful party. I will definitely be trying these recipes.

Donna E. said...

What a wonderful party!!! I hope that your M.I.A. "Donna" gets in touch with you...such a lovely prize.

~ Donna E.

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon- this might just be THE most beautiful (and delicious looking) gathering I've ever seen. It's the perfect festive dinner from start to finish. I'm loving the photos-- all of them. Your recipes look just wonderful- I'm dying to try the squash.

Susan must have been thrilled with the entire evening-- oh and that beautiful cake too.

I've been listing after Susan's new book- maybe I can add it to my Santa list:)

Thanks for the photos- I feel like I was invited--


Melody said...

I don't often comment, just read quietly.... but today, I just wanted to say that both you and Susan Branch make the artistic part of my heart smile... and it's even better knowing you two are friends! :)))
Lovely party! ~ and even though I don't like to cook, I'm going to try your baby peppers, cuz they look delicious!

Harmony C Adkins said...

What a joy it is to live vicariously through such beautiful blogs as yours and Susan's. I don't comment nearly enough but I'm a constant reader of both. Such lovely lives ~ and to have those long-standing, special friendships is the loveliest grace of all. Thanks for sharing the fun & memorable moments. (As well as those preceding bird rescues, literary travels, home views and recipes. Everything that makes life sweet!)

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Harmony,

Thank you for such sweet and welcome words. Having friends is a great grace that I always appreciate.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. Sometimes I wonder if anyone is reading! (Jeff just told me that the blog gets thousands of hits a day so maybe it is just quick stop-bus!



Judi said...

What a lovely party!

Thistle Cove Farm said...

It seems to be a delightful party, look at the happy people! I'm still reading A Fine Romance...doling it out to myself in bits and pieces because I don't want it to end.

Jeri Landers said...

Lucky Susan to have such a friend as you! I just finished my third book, (after 2 years of work) and I've never had a book party either. But this was some kinda bash! The squash looks super delicious and it is something I can actually grow. I don't even like cooking, unless the food is pretty and that squash is stunningly orange! Say, that hubby of yours is quite a dish too! (very handsome)
Just received my copy of Susan's book and am slowly relishing it.

Donna said...

Hi Sharon! I am so excited to have learned that I won the giveaway for AML's book "Gift of the Sea! I so delighted and am looking forward in reading this lovely book...and can tell my all the other comments on your blog that I will treasure the book for years to come. I have been looking for such a book! I love your blog and fb page and do look forward in enjoying more to come! I sent my information via email. Thank you so much

Down by the sea said...

Thank you for leaving me a comment and introducing me to your lovely blog. That looks a lovely party for Sue with great food and company. Your home in Maine looks delightful and love the history behind it and all those books too.
Sarah x

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Congratulations Donna!

You WILL treasure this book for years to come. I never tire of it. Anne M.L. was a deep thinker and it comes through on every page. Of course, she had much to think about; a husband who was world famous, a tragic kidnapping of her young son, a house full of children, constant confusion.

I met her youngest daughter in Damariscotta last summer. She spoke about their lives and it was fantastic

I am putting together a goodie pouch for you which will include your Grimy Hands extra gift.

All joys to you,


Diane Harris said...

Sharon, I am thrilled to find your blog! I've adored your work since I first read "The Sunflower House" when my girls were toddler 20+ years ago. It's so fun to realize that you and another favorite author, Susan Branch, are connected! That just makes me smile! Write more, write often! Please!

Diane Harris

Diane Harris said...

Sharon, I am thrilled to find your blog! I've loved your work since I first read "Sunflower Houses" when my girls were toddlers 20+ years ago! And now, what fun to see you are connected to another favorite author/friend, Susan Branch! It makes me smile. Write more, write often. . . please!

Diane Harris

Lili said...

Oh my dear Sharon it's been too long since I have gotten caught up with you!! Wow, I am craving some warm weather and a few of those cheesy peppers after reading this. I just love the sense of community you all have out there when throwing a party for one another. Fantastic. And Jeff good job protecting the cake...a slice of that sounds good too. xoxo

Anonymous said...

I doubt if you or Susan know what a thrill it is for us to actually see into such private bits of your lves, we admire and enjoy the fruitsof your talent and then to have you both blog and allow to see the real you, well its just such a treat. I love that you both good friends, in my perfect world I would envision you two sitting down for tea and well here it s ( albeit a much grande scale) , just know that far away from you in the land of snow and ice there is someone who gets such a thrill from all of this, thank you both,

Pondside said...

It's been such a long time since I sat at the computer to catch up - China, a bug, and LIFE got in the way. It's lovely to have had a catch up and to read about the lovely party. Is there any party more fun than one given from the heart, for a friend?
I wish I'd been around to enter the book draw! I had a terrible time getting hold of the book to send to a friend in Belgium, but was finally successful, but never got one for myself. Perhaps it will be easier after the Christmas rush.
And......just wanted you to know that I thought of you as I wrapped some gifts for the grandchildren - some of your books, which I love. The little bird feeder sits on their living room window in frigid Alberta and the boys love to see the birds come by.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hello dear Pondside,

I LOVE picturing my little bird feeder on your grand's window in Alberta.

Thanks so much for sharing that with me.



Jeri Landers said...

Okay Sharon, I've been the lucky recipient of your drawings for goodies twice; now you simply must enter my drawing for a 1st edition copy of my new book! You might be as lucky as me....add your name! Jeri

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Diane Harris,

It IS a small world, isn't it?

Diane, I WANT to do more blog postings, but sometimes those hours can't be found. I am finishing a novel and have to comb through one that is being released in a few months. What I'll be doing is called reading first pages. One of my last chances to catch any errors.

Glad to know that you enjoyed Sunflower Houses. My baby!

Best to you and yours,


laurent said...

Bonjour Sharon,
je vois que vous ĂȘtes tous gourmands aussi, il n' y a pas qu' en France qu' on aime la gastronomie !