October 23, 2012

If only Fall could last forever

Autumn has come in with a bang and I could not be happier. It's my favorite time of year here. It's funny how the simple and predictable change of seasons can have such a huge effect on my state of mind. When you live in the South you look forward to the fall, if only because it means the heat lets up and the mosquitoes die off. But add to that the beautiful colors that take over the sky and all the leaves turning red, orange, gold and yellow and, after months of unrelenting heat and humidity and non-stop complaining from me-- it reminds me of why it's nice to live in a place like this. Plus, fall is just my favorite season for many reasons. Baking in fall is the best; I love using apples and pears, walnuts and pumpkins. I love Halloween (and it's about to get even better now that June is going to understand it all). And I love the months leading up to the holidays because it gives me something to look forward to and plan. All the eating and baking and gathering with family and friends just makes me happy. Happier than I am in summer, and more energetic. Plus, there has been so much going on around here lately...

Buffalo Valley Farm, the site of a benefit farm dinner I participated in a few weeks ago.

A wagon ride to the fall fest at the East Nashville farmer's market

Sevier lake at Shelby Park, near our house, which celebrated 100 years recently

Smelling the lavender in bloom all over the neighborhood

Afternoon stroll through the leaves

I recently stopped working the night shifts at the restaurant and am only working in the kitchen. This is good for my mental state, bad for my pocketbook. But the trade-off is worth it to me right now. I love spending time with my family and June is in a particularly fun stage. She's extra verbal and funny and just full of life and fun to be around, despite the challenges of being a toddler.

We took June on her first camping trip last weekend, the first weekend I did not have to work a Sat. night since the beginning of August. It was so nice to be able to take off on Sat. morning and not return until Sunday afternoon. We went out to my in-laws' property in Hickman County which is in the woods, surrounded by the trees in full fall glory and it was a great time to be out there. We hiked in the woods, cooked a nice dinner (they have a cabin), drank wine, made s'mores and sat around the fire and attempted to sleep in a tent.

I say attempted because we set up the tent close to the house just in case we needed an exit. June had been looking forward to the trip all week--she nearly freaked when her daddy came home with a new, pink sleeping bag for her and new 5-person tent for us on Friday. But after reading books by flashlight and jumping around inside the tent, growing increasingly tired, she finally just said "Can we go inside now and go to bed?" I was fine since the temperature had dipped into the 40s and even with my down sleeping bag, I was still chilly. But Daniel was disappointed. In general I love sleeping outdoors and camping, but since having a baby sleep has become a precious commodity and I need all I can get.

Eating a s'more for the first time

We drove home the next day with one tired child, a whooped dog who had the best weekend she'd had in a long time (maybe since June's arrival on the scene) and two rested parents. We vowed to do that again soon.

Now I'm getting ready for a much-anticipated visit from my dad (who is "Papa" to June) and we are excited to spend some time with him. It will be a busy and fun weekend with two Halloween parties, other fall events around town, dinner plans out at the restaurant and hopefully some continued beautiful fall weather.

Tomorrow night at the restaurant we have our first Chef's table - a 3-course special dinner off the menu, reservations only and it's sure to be booked. The family style menu will feature fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans, gravy, turnip greens and more. And I'm making a special dessert:

Apple Brown Betty with bourbon whipped cream. I'll be peeling, coring and cutting apples all morning but it should be fun.

And on Thursday I'm hosting a Halloween cookie decorating party for my mom's club friends. I need to make all the sugar cookies first so the kids just have to decorate them. When will I do this??


And one day if I ever have time I'm going to make this maple-apple upside down cake. Doesn't it just look so perfect for a late afternoon snack with a cup of coffee?

Fall could go on forever as far as I'm concerned.

October 8, 2012

the messiness of life in a restaurant kitchen

The Buddha said that we are never separated from enlightenment. Even at the times we feel most stuck, we are never alienated from the awakened state. This is a revolutionary assertion. Even ordinary people like us with hang-ups and confusion have this mind of enlightenment called bodhichitta. The openness and warmth of bodhichitta is in fact our true nature and condition. Even when our neurosis feels far more basic than our wisdom, even when we're feeling most confused and hopeless, bodhichitta—like the open sky—is always here, undiminished by the clouds that temporarily cover it.
                                                     Bodhichitta: The Excellence of Awakened Heart, by

photo courtesy