Life as I know It

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

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer in the Midnight Kitchen

Getting ready to preserve the Concord grapes. I separate them from the stem, rinse them in cold water, and let them dry. Next thing I am tackling is preserving grape leaves for dolmas and other things.

Dear Friends,

Oh those sleepless nights... what good can come of them? Plenty! It is my time to sit in the kitchen rocker, find a great recipe, sip some tea, then get up and cook. During those dark and quiet hours I create a maelstrom of foods, syrups, liqueurs, dashed across the walls, counters, and of course, in small, sticky pools on the old wooden floors. What a mess, but also, what a joy to create and have something wonderful waiting for me when I wake in the morning. Jeff loves to smell all the good things I've cooked up and he doesn't bemoan the fact that his feet often stick to the floor.

During summer's bounty there are so many projects to accomplish. I'll show you just a few of my favorites. I am bad about following recipes, though I LOVE to read cookbooks, so these are experiments and done for food, fun, and for future projects, maybe even my own book of treasured recipes and projects.

These are a few of the zillions of seedless Concords dangling from our arbor. It is hard to believe that I planted the six of them from cuttings smaller than a pencil. Now they are 10 feet tall and trail and climb 30 feet of arbors and posts.

The birds harvest plenty of our grapes and let us claim the remainders. During cold winter days I will drink in the sunshine and scent of grapes whenever I open a jar of concentrate, syrup, or jelly. Oh, and that fabulous fruit leather–it is wonderful and is simply made of the leftover pulp, spread in a thin sheet and left to dry in our old, gas oven. I dried this for two days and two nights, cut this into 12 pieces, and rolled it. I store my leathers in tall glass apothecary jars to keep them from rehydrating.

The Midnight Kitchen smells divine!

This is one of my midnight experiments–whole grapes and sugar canned for a juice concentrate. We'll see how this turns out. It must age for a month before I open and test one.

I also freeze bags of the fresh grapes. My old pal Carolyn Germain is the one who taught me what great and healthy treats they are. I love the crunch and pop of a frozen grape. You can add whole grapes to summer lemonades, sangria, etc. 

Summer's bounty is rich in edible flowers...

...and herbs, lemons, and limes (the last of the crop). I use these for my edible flower cheeses...

This is a soft yogurt cheese that drips through a sieve for two days (in the refrigerator). 

For inspiration I often turn to this old preserving book by Nora Carey. The recipes are great and the photographs will make you rush out to your garden to do a major redesign.

Home Sweet Home

I just returned from the American Library Association Conference in Las Vegas. I felt like a goat in roller skates there...out of place, out of my element. The good thing was that I got a chance to meet many of my old friends and new friends who are authors and illustrators. I am a huge fan of artist Melissa Sweet, who was there signing a few of her books. Also got to actually see my new book Running Out of Night (Random House, November 2014) on a bookshelf! Woot hoot. I couldn't believe it.

I did a mini-book signing of my Workman Publishing books, visited with librarians from everywhere, and had a ball. 

On Friday night Random House hosted a birthday party for Batman, who just turned 75. About 400 of us crowded into the Venetian Hotel and celebrated Batman with lots of food, fun, wine, and huge Batman-birthday cakes. 

The flight home from Las Vegas to the Central Coast took only 51 minutes. What a difference and culture shock. I was so happy to return to my sweet husband, my gardens, and my family. Heaven-on-earth here.

The Great Cheese Book Give-Away

Ok, so now that I've written about some of my summer projects I want to encourage YOU to do some of your own. My publicist at Workman Publishing has pledged two copies of this fabulous little book to two lucky winners. Simply "follow" me at the bottom of this page, leave a comment on this posting (not on Facebook), and in ten days we will do a random drawing for winners. The books will be mailed out by Workman to your snail mail address, so please, if you comment anonymously, leave a real name and e-mail address or other contact information.

This book is concisely written, with great directions, photographs, and recipes. You'll love it and so will your friends and family when you start spoiling them with your creations.

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